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Hughes: Thoughts on Beck, Al Harris

first_imgHave you ever been minding your own business, just you and your thoughts, when all of a sudden a song plays – on the radio or just randomly from a computer – that totally captures your thoughts?At one point Monday night, when I was sitting in The Badger Herald office working with InDesign, the eclectic musical artist known as Beck all of a sudden could be heard emanating from a nearby computer.The tunes were that of “Broken Drum,” off of the easy-listening Guero album. It’s a song about saying goodbye to a friend. Immediately upon hearing Beck sing so slowly, amid the weary guitar and synthesizer, a clear picture was painted in my mind (if you have your iPod or iTunes ready, I highly recommend playing it as you read on).I see you there/Your long black hair/Your eyes just stare/Your mind is turning.When I heard that, it was clear to me and everyone else in that room that for those four minutes and 30 seconds – just that one time – Beck was actually singing about Green Bay Packer fans saying fare-thee-well to Al Harris (and not the girl that Beck’s probably singing about in all other circumstances).Harris, the dreadlocked cornerback caper that every Packer fan loved to love, was released Monday to his and our own amazement – a casualty of roster building. General manager Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy decided they no longer had a place for Harris, a 35-year-old veteran on the cusp of returning from a devastating knee injury a year ago.Was it necessary? Sure. As Harris treaded the road to recovery, Tramon Williams evolved into a reliable, playmaking defensive back in his stead while rookie Sam Shields burst out of his shell as a nickel back against Dallas.You could make a case that it was a bit rash, though. With Pat Lee, Brandon Underwood, and Jarrett Bush all that’s left to fill in any injury absences that might surface through the rest of the season, you begin to weigh the benefits of keeping around one of the most physical and experienced backs in the game.But sadly, that’s not how life in Green Bay is, and to think the team wouldn’t stick to its guns this time around is just a mistake. Thompson’s always thinking about the future. He wants Lee, Underwood and Bush to develop just as Williams did. Harris would’ve taken away from that.The move makes sense, but this transaction still marks the departure of one of Green Bay’s most beloved players over the last decade. He played a significant role in helping the Packers be a winner for eight years and in shaping the team’s image of the 2000s. Nevertheless, his performance over those years in Wisconsin and the fanfare that came with it will immortalize him in Packers lore.Green Bay acquired Harris from Philadelphia in 2003, a place that, over the last couple years, became known for producing an abundance of excellent pass defenders just like the city produces delicious Philly cheesesteaks.He proved you didn’t have to be a ballhawk in order to be an elite defensive back in the NFL. In eight years with Green Bay he snagged just 14 interceptions, never exceeding three in one year but never short on league-wide respect. He was named to the Pro Bowl twice and also garnered a second-team All-Pro selection.He received those accolades by turning opposing wide receivers into rag dolls. One time I think I remember seeing him carry a limp wide receiver back to the line of scrimmage with his mouth, like a cat catches a mouse. His physicality was unmatched, and Harris was, in my eyes, one of the hardest working players in the league. He probably still is.He terrorized human beings just as the titular creature of the 1979 film “Alien” did. In fact, he looks a lot like the alien too.That abusive style of his landed him more than a fair share of penalties, but it also landed him a team record 28 passes defensed in 2004, and 108 over the course of his Green & Gold career. He made his opponent work for every catch.During the 2007-08 season, in a big road game against Dallas, I remember watching Terrell Owens trying to block Harris as a harmless rushing play went down the other side of the field. Owens quickly glanced at how the play was developing when the 6-foot-1, 190 pound Harris, not but arms length away and with no momentum, hurled his hands into the chest of the 6-foot-3, 224 pound wide receiver. Owens fell harder and faster to the ground than when the anvil met Wile E. Coyote’s head.That’s the kind of player Harris is. Never a moment off.And who could forget the time Harris made Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck say to himself, “Oh, shit,” in that 2004 playoff game? On the heels of Hasselbeck announcing to Lambeau Field that he was going to “take the ball and score” in overtime, Harris jumped the route and ran down the sideline and into the end zone with one arm tucking the ball away and the other pointing one finger skyward. It instantly became one of the most memorable Packer moments in decades.It’s sad that I, and probably many others, can’t even remember Harris’ last game as a Packer. I had to look it up – it was November 22 of last year, when Green Bay hosted San Francisco. Harris gave up a long pass for a touchdown in that game, even though Michael Crabtree clearly pushed off in the end zone.And now, with Harris gone, the only beloved familiar face of the 2000s that remains is Donald Driver and perhaps Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher. Green Bay truly has a new identity now. There’s no more Favre, Green, Franks, Freeman, Sharper, Rivera, Whale, Gbaja-Biamila or Harris.The Packers have now truly donned a new identity for a new decade behind the faces of Rodgers, Matthews, Jennings and Collins.It’s almost becoming a clich?, but the NFL is indeed a business. So it goes. And here, in some of Beck’s last verses, we again picture Harris – even if we had to slightly change one of the words.Your setting sun/Your broken drum/Your little dreads/Never forget you.Elliot is a junior with an undecided major. How bummed were you to hear Harris was leaving Green Bay? Where did he rank among your favorite Packers? Send your thoughts to ehughes@badgerherald.com.last_img read more

Legendary University of Iowa Football Coach Hayden Fry dies at 90

first_imgGary Barta Statement on Hayden Fry: ====================The following is from the University of Iowa Athletic Department: Mary and I send our heartfelt condolences to his wife Shirley, their children and the entire Fry family. We hope that Hayden’s legacy of integrity and high character will provide his family comfort during this difficult time.” “Our thoughts and prayers are with Shirley and the entire Fry family as we mourn the loss of Hayden Fry; a great leader, an outstanding coach, and a man as genuine and loyal as they come. “There are two men who played large roles in my coaching career: One is my mentor, Joe Moore. The other is Hayden Fry. Iowa football reached new heights under Hayden Fry, and has continued that success under Kirk Ferentz, one of the many outstanding coaches who served as a member of his staff. Hayden’s legacy not only lives on through Iowa football, but also through the coaches and players who had the privilege to be associated with his teams. We are proud to know that our father’s life had a positive influence on so many people, the players, the coaches, and the fans who played for, worked with, and supported his long and successful coaching career. His legend will live forever with the people he touched and inspired, and the programs he led to greater heights. Fry Family on the passing of Hayden Fry: We cannot thank everyone enough for their love and support. Your thoughts and prayers are truly appreciated. Kirk FerentzStatement of condolences on the passing of Hayden Fry Back in 1981, I sent three job applications out: one went to Appalachian State – I never heard back from them; I sent one to Hawaii, had a phone interview, but they needed someone who knew the west coast; the third went to Hayden Fry at Iowa. Coach Fry hired me based on Coach Moore’s recommendation (and in spite of my lack of experience and local knowledge) and showed me how to build and maintain a winning program. RALPH D. RUSSOAP College Football WriterHayden Fry, the Texan who revived Iowa football and became a Hawkeye State institution over two decades as a Big Ten coach, has died. He was 90.Fry’s family announced through the University of Iowa that the former coach died Tuesday with his family at his side after a long battle with cancer. He had been living in the Dallas area with his wife, Shirley.“We are proud to know that our father’s life had a positive influence on so many people, the players, the coaches, and the fans who played for, worked with, and supported his long and successful coaching career,” the family said in a statement. “His legend will live forever with the people he touched and inspired, and the programs he led to greater heights.”The native of Eastland, Texas, had never been to Iowa before taking over the Hawkeyes in 1979, hired by then-athletic director Bump Elliott, the former Michigan star who died earlier this month.The Hawkeyes had slogged through 17 consecutive years without a winning season when Fry arrived. He changed everything. He had the uniforms redesigned to make them look more like the black and gold ones worn by the Pittsburgh Steelers, the NFL’s dominant team at the time. The familiar Tigerhawk logo was unveiled during Fry’s tenure. He had the visitor’s locker room painted pink, a tradition that still stands. Roaming the sidelines in his familiar dark sunglasses, Fry coached the Hawkeyes for 20 seasons, winning 238 games and three Big Ten championships.“Though Hayden was born in Texas and moved there more recently to be closer to our family, his love for the University of Iowa, his players and coaches, the people of Iowa, and the state of Iowa, is well known,” the family said. “Hayden often shared, ‘I’ll Always Be a Hawkeye.’”Fry started his coaching career at Odessa High School in the 1950s, not long after playing quarterback at Baylor. His first college head coaching job was at SMU, and then he did a six-year stint at North Texas, where he went 40-23-3.At Iowa, Fry not only produced winning teams, but also a long line of assistants who went on to successful head coaching careers.Bill Snyder, Barry Alavrez, Bob Stoops, Bret Bielema and current Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz were among the 13 Fry assistants who became college head coaches.“Hayden Fry is a college football icon and an Iowa legend,” Ferentz said. “His Hall of Fame career is well known, but personally, he will always be the man who took a chance on me at the start of my coaching career. I was proud to coach with him and honored to succeed him when he retired. He’s been a great mentor and a true friend. I am forever grateful to him.”Fry retired as Iowa’s winningest coach in 1998, a mark since surpassed by Ferentz. He was first diagnosed with prostate cancer before his final season at Iowa and he did his best to keep the news from his players and coaches while he received treatment.“My doctor at the hospital said, ‘Coach, you may be the luckiest guy in the world. You’re almost 70 years old and you’re in real good physical condition other than the cancer.’ He said I could live another five years. That was 16 years ago, and I’m still here,” Fry told the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Gazette in 2015, when he was living in Nevada.Fry is survived by his wife, four sons, a daughter, a stepson and a stepdaughter. Memorial Services are pending and will be announced at a later date. Hayden represented all that is good in college athletics, and did it “his way”. Iowa athletics, and college football, has lost a pioneer. He was a dedicated family man and he will be missed.” With our family at his side, Hayden Fry, beloved husband, father, and grandfather, passed away following a lengthy battle with cancer.  We are comforted in our faith and knowing that Hayden is no longer suffering and resides now in heaven with our Lord.  Hayden passed on Dec. 17, at the age of 90. “Hayden Fry is a college football icon and an Iowa legend. His Hall of Fame career is well known, but personally, he will always be the man who took a chance on me at the start of my coaching career. I was proud to coach with him and honored to succeed him when he retired. He’s been a great mentor and a true friend. I am forever grateful to him. Though Hayden was born in Texas and moved there more recently to be closer to our family, his love for the University of Iowa, his players and coaches, the people of Iowa, and the state of Iowa, is well known.  Hayden often shared, “I’ll Always Be a Hawkeye”. Additional thoughts from Kirk Ferentz on Hayden Fry: Iowa Athletics has lost an icon, a man that raised the bar for every Hawkeye program, and every member of our athletics department. Hayden was respected by everyone who knew him. His passing creates a void for all those who played for, coached with, and supported his successful tenure as our head football coach. His vision included hiring coaches who would be forward thinking and challenge each other. If you look across college football, you will see a part of his legacy in the coaches who he hired and mentored – coaches like Barry Alvarez, Bill Snyder, Dan McCarney, Bob, Mike and Mark Stoops and many more.Even before the Hawkeyes started winning on the field, Coach Fry was beloved by the fans and trusted by his players. He had a charisma and leadership style that created a championship and winning program that continues today. In 20 seasons at Iowa, Coach Fry showed us all that you can succeed at the highest level by playing by the rules.” Our family would like to pass along our heartfelt thanks to the caregivers who made Hayden’s comfort their priority.last_img read more