Like Father, Like Son

FAYETTEVILLE — A grade school paper hanging in Arkansas safety Matt Harris' room in Texas offers a peek at the influence his famous father has had on his life.

Harris was in second grade when he wrote it, so words are obviously misspelled. But his aspirations were clear: He wanted to follow in his father's footsteps by playing football at Arkansas and for the Dallas Cowboys.

"I was so little I didn't even know he went to Ouachita (Baptist) at the time," Harris said. "I thought he went to Arkansas. ... We get a kick out of it. It's kind of cool."

Harris, the son of former Ouachita Baptist and Dallas Cowboys' safety Cliff Harris, has done a pretty good job of fulfilling his boyhood dreams. Not only is he starting for the Razorbacks, the Dallas-area native will play in his father's old stomping grounds Saturday night, when the Razorbacks face Texas A&M in the Southwest Classic.

It's not the same Cowboys Stadium where Cliff Harris earned the nickname "Captain Crash," but Dallas' new palace hasn't forgotten the past. Harris' name is one of 17 that lines the stadium in the "Ring of Honor."

"For his name, our family's name, to be up in the stadium, and for me to be actually a part of history like he was so much for the Cowboys, I'm going to be playing with a lot of emotion on Saturday for sure," Harris said.

As he always does, Cliff Harris will be watching with plenty of emotion from his seat Saturday night, too.

The former Cowboys great admits to living vicariously through his son. His days of hitting receivers who come across the middle are over. But watching Matt play at Arkansas has rivaled his Super Bowl experiences.

"He's living a dream and I'm living a dream," said Cliff, and Arkansas native. "I'm a kid that wanted to play for the Arkansas Razorbacks. Everyone in Arkansas did ...

"To have my son there playing and starting and being a critical part of the team is unbelievable."

Harris has been one of Arkansas' most reliable defensive players and is tied for the team lead in tackles (19). The Hogs are counting on the senior to help steady the back end, and Harris credits his father for helping him.

Cliff Harris said he doesn't delve into teaching technique and schemes. Those are matters for Arkansas' staff. But he does try to help his son with some of the subtle things.

Cliff Harris said he always has been a big proponent of mastering the mental aspect of the game and shares tips with Matt often. His biggest message: Think like a quarterback and receiver. Know what they want to do.

"I could be four years old and he would tell me to read someone's mind," Matt Harris said. "Obviously, you can't do that, but he thinks so positively that you can actually see the play before it happens and make the play. ...

"He's already made me play A&M three times this week."

Harris said he appreciates his father's expertise, calling him a "dad first and all-pro second." He wasn't born when his father retired in 1979, but learned about his career by listening to stories and watching old video tapes.

Most kids grow up dreaming of playing quarterback, running back or receiver. Harris said he had little interest in that side of the ball. No one is really surprised Harris gravitated to defense — and safety in particular.

Now he'll get another chance to make his dad smile, playing safety in Cowboys Stadium on Saturday night.

"Matt is going to be able to be on the same field that I played on playing a big-league game," Harris said. "This is really a real blessing for me and him."

Texas Razorbacks

Safety Matt Harris is one of several Razorbacks who will return to their home state for Saturday's game against Texas A&M in Arlington. Here are some notable players who call Texas home:

Pos Player High School City

DE Adrian Davis Terry Rosenberg

RB Knile Davis Ft. Bend Marshall Missouri City

LB Wendel Davis Sweeny Sweeny

WR Reggie Fish Mesquite Mesquite

WR Cobi Hamilton Texas Texarkana

S Matt Harris Pearce Richardson

OT DeMarcus Love Carter Lancaster

QB Ryan Mallett Texas Texarkana

S/PR Jerell Norton Cedar Hill Cedar Hill

S Tramain Thomas E. Chambers Winnie

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