Arkansas has had linebackers since that have weighed more than Wayne Harris’ 182 pounds, but none hit harder.
When Frank Broyles came to Fayetteville from Missouri in 1958, he kept hearing in his rounds across the state about “The Thumper” from El Dorado off the freshman team, but he was skeptical.
Who wouldn’t be? A 182-pound linebacker?
Frank finally looked at some film and came away impressed. Harris proved he could play anywhere. He was an All-American in 1959 and 1960 and became a legendary player in the Canadian Football League.
All because of his hitting.
Football then was a one-way sport for the most part. But there was a gap in the rules that allowed for one wildcard player to sub each down. That allowed Broyles to keep Harris in on defense for both units and Barry Switzer could play center for both units where his experience and leadership proved invaluable.
Harris was also responsible for one of the most thunderous hits of all time in the 1959 game against SMU in Dallas.
Don Meredith had dropped back to pass and didn’t like what he saw, so he decided to keep it. Up the middle he went until he met Harris head-up in the hold.
Meredith was knocked out of the game for a bit.
“It’s hard to see your receiver when your eyeballs are in the back of your head,” assistant Wilson Matthews said later.
The Razorbacks were 21-11 over Harris’ three seasons and after a rocky 4-6 start in Broyles’ first season, they turned it around to go 9-2 in 1959, winning the Gator Bowl, and 8-3 in 1960, losing to Duke in the Cotton Bowl after winning the SWC title.
Harris was team captain as a senior in 1960 and recorded 174 tackles, a single-season school record that still stands to this day. Harris was named to the Razorbacks’ All-Decade team for the 1960s and inducted into the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame in 2004.
“Wayne Harris was one of the all-time great Razorbacks,” former Arkansas coach and athletic director Frank Broyles said. “He was a fierce competitor on the field and his toughness was legendary. He was everything an Arkansas football player should be.”
Following his Razorback career, Harris became one of the best players in Canadian Football League history. He played 12 season (1961-72) for the Calgary Stampeders, winning every award available to a linebacker.
He was named the CFL’s most outstanding lineman four times and earned All-Canadian linebacker honors eight times. He helped lead the Stampeders to three Grey Cups, the CFL’s championship game, and won the CFL title in 1971.
Following his playing career, he was elected to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1976. His No. 55 jersey was retired by the Stampeders and he was part of the inaugural class for the Stampeders Wall of Fame in 1985. In 2012, Harris was featured prominently on a stamp that was part of Canada Post’s 100th Grey Cup anniversary series.
He is a member of the Razorbacks Hall of Honor and was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 1981.
Harris passed away June 4, 2015.