Five years ago today – Tuesday, July 26 – was the worst day of my professional career, and one of the worst days I likely will ever live.
But before continuing, I will preface it with this; I wasn’t extremely close with Coach Harris. Sadly, we were just starting to become good friends on this tragic day five years ago. We had a good relationship – we would joke – well, he would joke, and I would laugh. But it was becoming clearer and clearer how great of a man he was, and that if you ever needed guidance or help on a matter completely unrelated to football, he would have all the time in the world for you.
Coach was a man you always gave the utmost respect to, in all situations. Early in 2011, I noticed he would always make a comment about the fact that I wore sunglasses when I shook his hand in the morning on the field (every morning I would go over and say hi had I not seen him in the facility prior).
So I would always take my sunglasses off before saying good morning. The morning he passed was the morning after a late night of celebrating a friend’s birthday. When we got out to practice, it was hot and extremely sunny. Needless to say, I needed my sunglasses that day. As I walked past the defensive line working through practice, I had not yet seen Coach Harris, and I figured for one day, given I was a bit ‘under the weather’, I would go past and keep my glasses on.
Well, I got about five yards by him, and I heard “you’re just going to walk past and not say good morning?” I looked over and there was a smiling Coach Harris. I stopped and thought, ‘well, you have to go over there now.’ So I walked over, a large coffee in my hand, and took off my sunglasses.
“Good morning coach”, as I as I shook his hand.
“Morning,” he replied in his deep voice. “How are we doing today?”
I replied that I was simply enjoying my coffee.
He looked at me with a twinkle in his eyes and that smile I really do wish we all could see even one more time. “Yes, you are. Maybe you should have two today,” he replied before braking out into his amazing laugh.
I laughed too, and put my sunglasses back on, turned around and walked down the field. Those were the last words I ever spoke to the man, about two hours prior to his becoming ill.
Coach and I weren’t particularly close friends, as I mentioned above. I think what saddens me the most is how much I know our relationship would have grown. But this isn’t about me; it’s about him, and this organization.
You were one of a kind, and every morning when I see the ‘Morning Big Blue’ on the wall in the players’ lounge at Investors Group Field, I still vividly hear your voice. I hope you’re doing well Coach, and bellow a few ‘call the **** holding’ on Thursday evening for us.