An All-American Tale

Once upon a time there was an immensely talented young man whose prowess on the football field caught the eye of many. He parlayed said talent into numerous high school awards, a spot on the U.S. Army All-American team and eventually a scholarship to the University of Oregon.

Since then he's impressed at times, frustrated other times and disappointed far too many times the fans who care about, wish the best and root for, the kid with the golden ticket.

Cliff Harris is his name and football is undoubtedly his game. His playmaking ability has never been denied, but his judgment or lack thereof is equally indisputable. Be it an untimely defensive risk, unnecessary jeopardy fielding punts or his much maligned transgressions off the field, the player who came to Oregon to "lock **** down" has never blended in...for better and worse.

This is the point in time when I, like many, am supposed to pounce on Mr. Harris, lecture him in regards to his numerous misdeeds and wipe him from my consciousness. He's warn out his welcome, played his last down and burnt his last bridge on his less-than-triumphant way out of Eugene…but I'm not going to do it.

Certainly, I'm frustrated with the route Cliff has chosen and yes, he has chosen it. Nothing he has done, nor anything he's gotten himself into is the fault of anyone but #13. He's had every opportunity to practice hard, abide by the laws of the land and work within the concept of a team, but for whatever reason he's opted for an alternative method which in the eyes of most, would be considered less-than-perfect. But in spite of his behavior I can't help but feel a bit saddened by such an obvious waste of not only talent, but opportunity few will ever be afforded.

Most people would give more than they should for the ability to do what Cliff can do. He's one of the world's select few who have the ability to make the difficult look easy, remarkable look relatively standard, and exceptional look average.

He's not Will Hunting, but he's not far from it with a ball, on a field, and with thousands of people watching. But while shamefully discarding what you or I would love to have, it isn't that which has me shaking my head, but more so what he's depriving himself of.

Had Cliff Harris not chosen to disregard the law multiple times, disregard his coaches wishes more times than that, and disregard common sense more times than a 14-year-old with a bb gun, a carton of eggs and an 8-pack of toilet paper, he'd likely be an All-American, on every watch list for defensive back awards, and a potential first round draft pick.

Now? On an indefinite suspension from the Oregon team, potentially out of the college game, and if he's lucky a late round draft pick in next year's NFL draft. And that is sad. It's never fun to watch someone actively make their life harder than it has to be, especially for a kid who by all accounts is well-liked by his peers, the people who cover the team, and nearly everyone I know who's crossed paths with him since his arrival at the University of Oregon.

I know some of you are predisposed to defending Cliff in addition to everything he has done, is doing or will do in the future, but it's becoming more apparent by the day that he's in desperate need of a reality check, and his future, along with the quality of it, may depend on those around him and their ability to communicate such to him.

I hope Cliff Harris is cleared of his most recent wrongdoing, earns back Chip Kelly's trust and finds a way to contribute in a positive way to this year's team's success. I also hope that he has someone in his life willing and able to explain to him that what may be in his best interest is to clean up his act, work his butt off on the field and in the classroom, and return for his senior season, perform at the level we know he's capable of and resurrect his NFL stock to or higher than a level most know he's capable of.

But that's out of our control.

Every story has a beginning, middle and end, we've seen Cliff's beginning, are in the midst of his middle, and are hopefully nowhere near the end of his career at the University of Oregon. Believe it or not, he deserves better, but whether he gets what he deserves, is entirely up to him.

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