James ‘Shack’ Harris was the first Black quarterback to start an NFL season-opener for a team. Harris was born and raised in Shaw, North Carolina and played college football at North Carolina A&T State University. While at North Carolina A&T State University, Harris was named to the All-MEAC First Team and the All-Region First Team.
Well, what do you know? This year, we actually got to see a black quarterback in the NFL pre-season. And not just any black quarterback, but the first black starting quarterback in NFL history. That is James “Shack” Harris, who played for the Cincinnati Bengals. Harris was drafted by the Bengals in the fifth round in 1996 and started in the season-opener last week.
The story of James “Shack” Harris, the first black quarterback to start an NFL season opener earned him notoriety outside of the football world. Harris, who played for the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1970s, had become an iconic figure, inspiring African American youth and encouraging them to follow their dreams.
The Los Angeles Rams had James “Shack” Harris behind center long before they thought Matthew Stafford would be their salvation at quarterback.
Younger football fans are unlikely to be acquainted with Harris, a Grambling State alum who played in the NFL for almost a decade. Those who grew up watching football in the 1970s, on the other hand, may remember the trendsetting signal-caller.
In Week 1 of the 1975 season, James ‘Shack’ Harris made NFL history.
James ‘Shack’ Harris of the Los Angeles Rams set the standard for some of the best quarterbacks in NFL history | Nate Fine/Getty Images
When the 1975 season started, Harris had already played in the NFL for six complete seasons. On Sept. 21, 1975, he made NFL history by taking the field against Tom Landry and the Dallas Cowboys.
The audience at Texas Stadium saw history as Harris became the first African-American quarterback to start a season for his club. In an 18-7 defeat, the veteran quarterback completed just one of his ten pass attempts for five yards and threw three interceptions.
Harris was the first Black starting quarterback in the NFL playoffs.
In three years at Grambling State University, James “Shack” Harris led the team to a 24-5-1 record and four SWAC championships. With the Los Angeles Rams, he was the first black quarterback to start a season, the first to start a conference championship game, and the 1974 Pro-bowl MVP. pic.twitter.com/4wAzyPGfgi
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Harris’ brush with history on that fateful Sunday in Dallas wasn’t his first. He was named to the Pro Bowl after taking over as the Rams’ starting quarterback halfway through the season and completing 53.6 percent of his throws for 1,544 yards, 11 touchdowns, and six interceptions. In 11 games and nine starts, he also scored five touchdowns on the ground.
Harris became the first Black starting quarterback in league history when he began against the now-Washington Football Team in the Divisional Round. In the Rams’ 19-10 win at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, he threw a touchdown and two interceptions. In the NFC Championship Game, the Minnesota Vikings beat the Los Angeles Rams.
With the Baltimore Ravens, Harris went on to win a Super Bowl.
Harris went on to become an NFL executive after 13 seasons in the league. From 1997 through 2003, he was the Baltimore Ravens’ director of pro personnel, winning a Super Bowl ring in 2000.
We may be wrong, but we believe Harris should be glad he never had to face Ray Lewis and the Ravens’ formidable defense. In his own career, he had to deal with the likes of Alan Page and Joe Greene. The point has been removed.
From 2003 through 2008, he was the Jacksonville Jaguars’ vice president of player personnel after leaving the Ravens. From 2009 through 2015, he worked for the Detroit Lions as a senior personnel officer. Needless to say, none of those stints resulted in a Super Bowl participation.
Harris is still one of the Rams’ most successful quarterbacks.
James ‘Shack’ Harris, a former Los Angeles Rams quarterback, spent his lengthy NFL career creating history | Focus on Sport/Getty Images
All eyes are on Stafford to see whether he can win a playoff game for the first time in his 12-year career with the Lions. It’ll be fascinating to see whether he can overtake Harris in a crucial metric.
The NFL Network published a graph in 2015 that ranked the victory percentages of Rams quarterbacks since 1950. Harris topped the list of all quarterbacks with at least 25 starts in club history, even surpassing Kurt Warner. In his 27 starts, the former Pro Bowl selection won 77.8% of the time.
Warner came in second, having won 70 percent of his 50 starts with the Rams. In six seasons with the Rams, Jared Goff, who was dealt to the Lions for Stafford, won 60.8 percent of his 69 starts. This is the sixth-best score among quarterbacks who are eligible.
Over the years, Harris has been a vocal supporter of historically black colleges and universities.
Harris excelled at Grambling State University, an HBCU in Louisiana, long before he made NFL history. He set many throwing records on his way to being selected eighth overall in the 1969 NFL Draft.
Harris has joined up with other HBCU products, like former Washington quarterback Doug Williams, to promote those institutions as time has gone on. In the Black College Football Hall of Fame Classic on Sunday, September 5, at Tom Benson Stadium in Ohio, his old school met Tennessee State University, which is currently coached by former Pro Bowl running back Eddie George.
Grambling won 16-10, as they did so often throughout Harris’ reign.
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Quick, what do you know about James “Shack” Harris? He was one of the greatest black quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL. He was the first African-American quarterback in history to start an NFL season opener in 1960, when he took the field in the New York Giants’ season opener against the Baltimore Colts. He was the first black quarterback to appear in an NFL playoff game. He was the first NFL quarterback to throw a touchdown pass to a receiver of another race. He led the NFL in pass completions in 1961.. Read more about black qbs to win super bowl and let us know what you think.
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