Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Players Sad for 'Shack'; LB Durant Expresses Gratitude for the Chance Harris Gave Him

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Players Sad for 'Shack'; LB Durant Expresses Gratitude for the Chance Harris Gave Him

Article excerpt

Byline: VITO STELLINO

The departure of Jaguars vice president of player personnel James "Shack" Harris, who resigned Tuesday, had been rumored for weeks. But it still caught some of the Jaguars players by surprise.

"As a player, you kind of have to farm your own land," said tight end George Wrighster, who was drafted by the Jaguars in the fourth round in 2003. "The management and the owner have to make their own decisions, and that's not something us players really think about or put a lot of time into."

Wrighster said he appreciated the mark Harris made in pro football as the first black quarterback to start a season opener, in Buffalo in 1969, at a time when many black quarterbacks were switched to different positions.

"It's bigger than the franchise," Wrighster said. "He was one of the first black quarterbacks, so guys like David [Garrard] and Byron [Leftwich] and [Donovan] McNabb and so many other guys around the league who might not have a chance [if not for Harris]. He was one of the front-runners, one of the people who really allowed that to happen. He was one of the pioneers."

Harris has been named one of the 50 most influential minorities in sports by Sports Illustrated, and Black Enterprise named him one of the most 50 most powerful blacks in sports.

Linebacker Justin Durant, drafted by the Jaguars in the second round of the 2007 draft, said he felt a rapport with Harris because they both had what Durant called "the black college experience." Durant played at Hampton, and Harris played for the legendary Eddie Robinson at Grambling.

"He [Harris] gave me an opportunity," Durant said. "I didn't think I was going to be drafted as high I did.

"I appreciate him for what he did."

Durant said Harris gave him tips from time to time.

"He talked to me about my game, and he'd tell me some things I needed to work on to make me a better player. …

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