This is a series that focuses on the last games and/or (when possible) the last plays of various members of the Cowboys. The final plays for a few of these players, such as Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, and Michael Irvin, are well known. Others may be more difficult to research, but I will do my best.
Cliff Harris is one of several Cowboys who should have a place in Canton, Ohio.
Six Pro Bowls. Named first-team All Pro three times. First-team member of the All-Decade Team of the 1970s.
In fact, Harris is one of only two players named to the first team of the 1970s All-Decade Team who has not been named to the Hall of Fame. The other is former Cowboy Drew Pearson.
Anyway, Harris retired at the age of 31 after the 1979 season so that he could focus on his business interests. That means that his final plays occurred during the same games as Roger Staubach.
In the Cowboys’ playoff loss to the Rams on December 30, 1979, Harris did record a key interception. With Dallas trailing 14-12 late in the third quarter, the Rams had the ball on the Dallas 43. Vince Ferragamo threw a pass over the middle, but Harris picked it off and returned the pick 22 yards. The play set up a Dallas touchdown drive that gave the Cowboys the lead.
Here’s the sequence:
Unfortunately, that was one of the last career highlights for Captain Crash.
The Rams regained the lead with less than two minutes remaining, and the Cowboys offense failed. The defense needed to pull off a miracle to give Dallas any sort of a chance.
The Rams ran the clock down and lined up for a field goal with 13 seconds left. But instead of attempting the kick to increase the lead to 5, L.A.’s Nolan Cromwell, the holder, went for a fake. Harris was the contain man on the play but missed the tackle, and Cromwell gained seven yards to give the Rams the first down.
The Rams lined up in Victory Formation with six seconds left, so it appears that Harris’s final play for the Cowboys was at safety when the Rams ran the clock out.
Harris’s final game was, like Staubach’s, the 1980 Pro Bowl. And Harris had a better game than Staubach.
According to my reading of the Gamebook, Harris recorded three tackles for the NFC and recovered a Franco Harris fumble. His final tackle occurred in the third quarter when he stopped Stanley Morgan after a 20-yard pass from Dan Fouts.
So here are Harris’s final plays:
Final Interception as a Cowboy: Picked off Vince Ferragamo in the third quarter of the Cowboys’ 21-19 loss to the L.A. Rams on December 30, 1979.
Final Plays as a Cowboy: Missed a tackle on a fake field goal run, then played safety when the Rams knelt on the ball with six seconds remaining, in 21-19 loss to L.A. Rams on December 30, 1979.
Final Tackle as a Professional: Credited with tackling Stanley Morgan in the third quarter of the Pro Bowl on January 27, 1980.