Wayne Harris Jr. Follows Father’s Legacy

by BoCarter | Posted on Monday, November 28th, 2016
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Wayne Harris Jr. Leaves Legacy and Almost Canadian Collegiate Championship for the University of Calgary Dinos
From the Airdrie (Alberta) Echo (with additions from NFF)
By Britton Ledingham, Airdrie Echo
Monday, November 28, 2016
The University of Calgary Dinos, which includes Airdrie’s Cory Robinson, came so close.
They rolled out of the locker room and delivered a masterful first quarter performance in Nov. 26’s Vanier Cup against the Laval Rouge et Or in Hamilton, but couldn’t quite manage to hang on against the powerhouse of Canadian university football.
In the end, they fell just short.
Twenty three yards would have gotten them the touchdown they needed with the clock ticking down towards zero, but those precious yards proved elusive and the Dinos could only watch as the Rouge et Or lifted the Vanier Cup over their heads after a 31-26 victory.
After the game, though, Dinos head coach Wayne Harris refused to speak about the disappointment of falling to Laval in the national final for a third time since 2010.
Instead, he spoke with pride in his voice about the harrowing journey his team took to get so far.
“I couldn’t be more proud of a football team,” Harris said. “I’ve been around a long time and these young men here, the way they battled through adversity all year, the number of guys we had out on the field that were hurt, the number of guys that were dressed who were walking on one leg … I don’t know that people understand the extent of the injuries we went through this year.
“It’s not an excuse, Laval is a great football team, but our guys, they just did everything we asked of them and for that I’m just totally proud of their performance today.”
On Saturday, the injury bug that has devastated so much of the Dinos lineup this season bit again.
After starting quarterback Jimmy Underdahl had led the team to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter—more on that in a second—he twisted the knee that had caused him to miss a month earlier in the season.
Underdahl was done for the day, and in came rookie quarterback Adam Sinagra, who kept the offence moving as the Rouge et Or found their feet and crawled back into the game.
“It was extremely difficult for me,” Underdahl said. “The hardest part was just not being able to be there for my teammates when they needed it.”
In his limited time on the field, Underdahl had electrified the crowd at Tim Hortons Field.
On the very first offensive play of the game, the Dinos quarterback had connected with Michael Klukas for an 86-yard touchdown.
The next time he got his hands on the ball Underdahl led his team downfield before delivering the ball to Anthony Anderson, who trotted into the end zone to give the Dinos a 13-0 lead.
“We came out hot, it was something we talked about,” said Underdahl, who completed three of four pass attempts for 123 yards before getting hurt.
The Rouge et Or would pull to within seven at halftime, and despite a valiant effort by the Dinos defence—which sacked Laval QB Hugo Richard seven times—they took the lead late after a blocked punt gave them possession deep in Dinos territory.
Airdrie-native defensive lineman Cory Robinson tallied one of the seven sacks, plus a pair of solo tackles in the Dinos’ loss.
Down 31-26 with less than two minutes to play, Sinagra calmly moved the Dinos upfield to the Rouge et Or’s 23-yard line, but the Dinos season stopped there.
There were tears as the Dinos stood at midfield in the rain while Laval players celebrated, but minutes later Underdahl was able to put the Dinos’ incredible run in perspective.
“I just couldn’t be prouder of these guys,” Underdahl said after his last university game. “We stuck together until the very end and we know we had a shot right until the end.
“That’s all you can ask for, just to have a shot.”
Robinson echoed Underdahl’s sentiments after his second Vanier Cup appearance, his first a 25-14 loss to Laval in 2013.
“[I] couldn’t be prouder of the guys,” said the fourth-year Dinos lineman. “We had a ton of injuries and no one used that as an excuse all year. Everyone was next man up and kept fighting.”
Robinson is eligible for the CFL draft in May 2017.
He’s staying in shape and thankful for the team he’s had around him.
“[It’s] a really great culture around the team,” said Robinson. “Everyone expects a lot of everyone else and that always pushes.”
Coach Harris, incidentally, is the son of NFF College Football Hall of Fame member and late CFL Calgary Stampeders standout Wayne Harris Sr.
Harris Sr. was a supreme blocker on offense and a fierce tackler on defense and proved Arkansas’ need for him on the field for every play.
A first team All-America selection, Harris set an Arkansas single-season record for tackles with 174 in 1960. A two-time first team All-Southwest Conference selection, he was named SWC Player of the Year in 1960. A team captain, he received the Arkansas Crip Hall Award for outstanding performance as a senior. Harris was nicknamed Thumper for his hard hits, and the Arkansas coaches now honor the best defensive player with the Thumper Award.
A true scholar-athlete, Harris was named first team Academic CoSIDA All-America in 1959 and twice earned first team Academic All-SWC honors. Following graduation, Harris played 11 seasons for the Calgary Stampeders and was currently a successful businessman as vice president of Cantex Drilling and Exploration. A member of the State of Arkansas Hall of Fame, he was active with the Special Olympics and the Amateur Sports Association.
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