There's plenty to study inside the study at Cliff Harris' home in Dallas. The Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor member has souvenirs from his illustrious 10-year NFL playing career, and no shortage of confidence from the moment he joined the Cowboys in 1970.
Harris' career took him him to six Pro Bowls and five Super Bowls, while he earned the nickname "Captain Crash" because of all the hard hits the safety delivered along the way.
"You take risks as a football player because you run into big guys and avoid big guys, but you had to learn, I had to learn, how fundamentally how to keep myself healthy and make them pay the price instead of me," Harris said.
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Harris learned that valuable lesson during his college days at Ouachita Baptist University. But he went undrafted out of the small school in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. Fortunately, legendary Cowboys player personnel director Gil Brandt did some digging and signed Harris to a free agent contract.
Turns out, Harris was the only rookie on the 1970 team to crack the Cowboys' staring lineup. Then, midway through the season, he was ordered to report for active duty in Fort Polk, Louisiana. But once again, Gil Brandt came to the rescue.
Harris recalled this story: "Gil Brandt went to the general of the 4th Army in San Antonio and somehow worked his way into the steam bath and said, 'Hey general, I'm here to talk about a guy that I want you to help me with -- Cliff Harris.' And the general said, 'Is that the kid that is in Fort Polk?' and he said, 'Yeah.' He said, 'We want him to come home and play on weekends and the general said, 'OK.'"
And the rest, as they say, is history. Harris even starred in the first Sports Illustrated commercial with Steelers great Rocky Bleier.
But Harris' life has been about much more than just sports, his achievements illustrated by a successful career in the energy field, where he still works today, and by his charity work. For the past 14 years, Harris has raised millions of dollars for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. It's an organization that means so much to him because his father was diabetic.
"Because I have fame, you know, what do you do with it if you don't maximize it and do something for the good of other people," Harris said.
It's not bad for a guy who wondered if he'd ever have his own trading card and now goes down as one of the greatest Cowboys of all time. His story unveils a valuable lesson for all of us.
"Don't be intimidated by your size, your strength, your intellect, whatever it is," Harris said. "You can can do whatever you want to do if you work hard enough and believe in yourself."