Inside Clark Harris’ Bengals quirky journey

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Clark Harris, since leaving the underbelly of New Jersey during his high school days on the Shore and his college days at Rutgers, has played 14 seasons in the NFL in one of the most unlikely journeys you’ve ever had. never seen.

The 37-year-old Bengals long snapper has played the past 13 years in Cincinnati, and the 2022 Super Bowl between the Bengals and the Rams on Sunday at SoFi Stadium will be his first trip to the sport’s biggest game after all these years.

It would be natural to think that his anticipation for the Super Bowl would be about the rush to stand in the tunnel as the team is about to be introduced or the pre-game hype or the first time he hits someone in the game.

Not exactly.

This was the revealing and colorful conversation The Post had with Harris this week ahead of the biggest game of his life:

Me: “Playing in your first Super Bowl after all these years in the league, what’s the moment you’re most looking forward to?”

Harris: “Halftime.”

Me: “Huh?”

Harris: “Everyone who’s going to be on that stage at halftime is people I’ve grown up listening to all my life – Eminem, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg – so I’m just going to stay on the court at the halftime and watch the show at halftime.”

Me: “Is this allowed? »

Harris: “I’m not asking anyone. I mean, when I go into the locker room at halftime, I don’t talk to any coach, I don’t really have any responsibilities. I’m just doing my little thing for a few minutes before I go back to the field.”

Clark Harris is looking forward to the Super Bowl halftime show.
Getty Images

Here’s the best part of Harris’ clandestine halftime plan: Like a mischievous kid, he actually has a made-up story in case anyone wonders why he’s the only uniformed player left on the pitch when the stage and props are set up. for the show.

Here’s how it goes: “If somebody says something to me, I’m just going to tell them, ‘I’ve been in the league for 15 years and I have a superstition that I don’t come in at halftime. Do you want me to ruin the game and lose the Super Bowl or do you just want to shut up and let me sit here?

Later, in a phone conversation with Jim Hutchinson, Harris’ stepfather, who along with Harris’ mother, Bonnie, raised him from his early teenage years in Manahawkin, NJ, I asked him if he knew about Clark’s “half-time plan”.

There was a long pause before Hutchinson finally stammered, “Uh, no.”

When I informed him of the plan, Bonnie, listening to the conversation, said, “It’s Clark.

Clark Harris celebrates a touchdown at Rutgers.
Clark Harris celebrates a touchdown at Rutgers.
PA

Clark Harris lives his life and he lives it without excuses.

The long snappers may represent the most anonymous position on an NFL roster, but Harris has been in the belly of the beast this postseason. The Bengals wouldn’t be in Los Angeles for this game if it weren’t for his long clutch snap.

Harris’ perfect shots led to back-to-back Bengals field goals going into this Super Bowl: rookie kicker Evan McPherson 52 yards as time expired to beat the Titans 19-16 and send Cincinnati to the title game from the AFC and McPherson’s 31-yard overtime to beat the Chiefs 27-24 in the AFC Championship game.

One bad shot and the Bengals would likely be home watching the Titans or Chiefs take on the Rams on Sunday.

“You couldn’t write a better script for a long snapper,” Harris said. “It’s a great feeling to be part of it.”

It’s well deserved considering Harris’ persistence since being drafted by the Packers as a seventh-round tight end in 2007 and seeing his dream come to an end more times than he can count.

By Harris’ estimate, he was cut nine times. By the estimate of his stepfather, who said he drove Harris to the airport on Monday for Tuesday tryouts, his stepson tried out for at least a dozen teams before finally getting a job.

Harris clung to Houston’s practice squad in 2008 as a tight end and was thrown into a long hiatus when the Texans’ long snapper was suspended for a PED test with four games remaining in the season. .

“That kind of started my long slamming career,” Harris said. “I’ve always done long shots since freshman football in high school.”

Clark Harris arrives in Los Angeles ahead of the Super Bowl.
Clark Harris arrives in Los Angeles ahead of the Super Bowl.
PA

Harris recalled that when Chuck Donohue, his coach at Southern Regional High, asked his players who could slam long, he told the coach, “I can throw a ball between my legs.”

“He was an outstanding long snapper — even in high school,” Donohue said.

Too good, as it turned out. Donohue recalled that Harris “had so much speed off his cross that the punter had trouble catching the ball.”

So Harris had to be moved to another spot on the line for punts because he was too good at what he was doing.

Clark Harris arrives in Los Angeles ahead of the Super Bowl.
Clark Harris
Getty Images

It took years in the NFL before Harris finally succumbed to the reality that his tight dream was dead.

“It was a slow, slow, slow transition before I realized I wasn’t a tight end anymore,” he said. “I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I’m a long snapper.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Now that Hutchinson has had a moment to digest his stepson’s Super Bowl halftime schedule, he said, “Clark is a funny guy. I think “quirky” is a good way to describe it. He’s not afraid to dance to a different drummer, but when the task is at hand, he’s utterly professional.’

Donohue understood exactly what Hutchinson was saying.

“In many ways, he’s still a kid at heart,” Donohue said. “But the Bengals have the right guy in there for this situation. He is able to handle things very calmly. It’s built for those pressure situations.”

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