The Harmon Legacy

Ronnie Harmon has spurred the running backs at Western Illinois to a 4.44 average per carry this year. He has yet to find a guy who caught the ball as well as he did, but boasts sophomore back Travis Glasford, who leads the team in rushing with 351 yards and seven touchdowns, and Junior Attley Lawson that has a healthy 5.7 yard per carry average toting the rock. Still his legacy dates back to January 6th, 1990 with Buffalo and continued to greater heights in 1994 with the San Diego Chargers.

Back in the playoffs when Ronnie Harmon was in Buffalo, the media reported, "January 6, 1990 - Cleveland Stadium - Just as Super Bowl XXV will be known as the one that Scott Norwood kicked wide right to lose the game for the Bills, this one a year earlier will forever be known as the "Big Drop" by Ronnie Harmon. The Bills had the ball on the Browns 12 yard line and were trailing 34-30 with just a few seconds remaining when Bills QB Jim Kelly hit Harmon in the right corner of the end zone with a perfect pass. But it bounced off Harmon's fingertips for an incompletion. On the very next play, Browns linebacker Clay Matthews picked off Kelly's 11-yard pass on the 1-yard line with 9 ticks left on the clock to win and send the Bills to the dressing room wondering what if."

Harmon never talked publicly about the play and this journalist did not see the game to comment on the validity of the statements. The talk from the media was Harmon dropped the pass.

"They say I did, or did I make a great effort to catch it?

"It depends on how you look at it. Everyone has their angle. My angle is people didn't understand what it was, the whole scenario, what the whole situation was. As the media has a way of doing – taking it and using it to their benefit and that is the way it was and it is why I never talked about it because it didn't really matter."

Taking a shot at the interviewer is a way to get more questions asked I tell Harmon. So who did understand?

"People who played with me understood what went on. That is why I never spoke on it. It didn't really matter."

So you went on to San Diego and bounced back nicely.

"I couldn't bounce back from something that I didn't do…"

Ouch. How about if we put it this way then? Harmon joined San Diego that offseason and his career took off.

"Plan B. That old plan B thing and at that point the coach really didn't have any interest in me being there."

The coach he speaks of is Marv Levy. Thurman Thomas had joined the Bills not long before and in that year Thomas caught 60 passes out of the backfield and 13 more in the playoff loss. Harmon, without a role, began his career anew in San Diego. The question is: was he driven out?

"I don't think I was driven out. They either like you or they don't, it is that simple. It was nothing personal. They feel you don't fit what they are trying to do."

Harmon moved on and worked hard in the offseason staying in shape for the rigors of the NFL season.

"I worked out at San Diego State with the track coach Rahn Sheffield for ten years. Ever since I was out in California."

In 1994, Harmon helped guide the Bolts to the Super Bowl. It all started in the end zone when Dennis Gibson knocked down a Neil O'Donnell. The question is: how do you feel?

"That is part of the game. I don't know, how are you supposed to feel?"

I don't know. Happy maybe?

"You just keep it moving. Stick and move, like Ali."

Rumors abound that the players took it too easy in their off week before the Super Bowl, going deep seas fishing and Bobby Ross never refocused the team.

"I don't know anything about that, I am not a fisherman. I would never go on a boat because I seasick.

"I mean they still have a life, they still have time. I don't think anything is wrong with it.

The media portrayed it as a lack of preparation for the game that year.

"Can you all let it go? What do we do after we work? We go and do things we enjoy. I am not saying you guys are wrong for writing, don't we as people do things that we love to do after we finish doing our job?

"I mean I will. You can write about it all you want.

‘Nuff said.

Would you like to play in today's game?

"Sure. The game is changing definitely. It seems like it is going to a more pass-oriented situation. You have to be able to throw the ball and quickly now. It is a combination of both. You have to good rushing, but it seems like the pass is really, really starting to take the forefront.

"Life is a full circle. It always starts where it began. That's what they used to do, throw the ball."

Do you still talk to anyone from your Iowa days, besides Coach Patterson of course?

"Once you finish your time, you move on. You don't hold on to what you did there."

Does that hold true in San Diego as well?

"Everyone is a close friend. It is pretty difficult to go beyond – I don't know how to explain that because in the NFL it is pretty difficult to have relationships, because everyone is moving. I am not trying to compare it to Vietnam. In a sense you don't really want to get as close as you wanted to because there is a chance that they may leave.

"Eric Bienemy who is coaching now at UCLA and in fact I just saw Gil Byrd out here. Basically it would probably be Eric Bienemy.

Who was your favorite backs growing up and did you emulate any of them?

"I took a little bit from all of them. Chuck Foreman, Gale Sayers, OJ Simpson, Tony Dorsett, Franco Harris, Rocky Bleier, Wilbert Montgomery…

"I liked everything everyone did. I was just a fan, a football fan.

As a football fan, do you follow the San Diego Chargers now?

"They are on the West coast. They don't play the Chargers out on the east coast."

I can't help but laugh at this statement…

"No seriously, it is Giants and Jets. See you are not going to see a lot of Jets things going on in California. It is very difficult to really keep up with them. Just looking at the boxscores."

I grew up a Jets fan; I still follow the team from the West Coast.

I tell Ronnie about a little invention known as the Internet. I also explain DirecTV. Seems he is caught in the dark ages.

He laughs and tells me how the interview is hard on him. "How am I doing?"

"Ronnie, we have been talking for forty minutes. If you would be quiet for a second, I can get off this phone!"

The laughter ensues and we continue the conversation for a while longer. What was said? Some things are meant to be kept private.

Denis Savage can be reaches at safage@cox.net

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