Former Dallas Cowboy and current energy industry leader Cliff Harris holds an iconic place in the annals of professional football.
But this soft-spoken, introspective leader of one of the most innovative, new approaches to energy production hasn't stopped making big hits just because he left the football field. Now he makes them in the energy field.
Harris is one of the two keynote speakers at the 5th annual Tri-State Oil and Gas Convention. His presence at the event this year should give plenty of people who might not think about coming to check out the convention, the best reason to drop by. Harris' address will begin at 10:30 at the Woodward Conference Center on Aug. 11.
"We are so excited about having him," said event co-coordinator Katie Shirley.
Harris plans to share some of his best and toughest moments both on the football field and in the energy field with those who come to hear him speak and meet him afterwards.
It only takes one little click on the internet to learn that Cliff Harris is something special.
Woodward News managed to score an interview with Harris on Friday as he juggled his job as Director of Energy Transfer Technologies - a 1995 startup that is now one of the fastest growing natural gas and natural gas liquids transportation companies in the United States.
He heads a division at Energy Transfer that has combined the opportunities of deregulation of electricity with the innovation of specially constructed natural gas compressors, which contain both electrical engines and gas engines. This combination approach to moving natural gas created an energy movement system that is not only environmentally friendly, but works in lockstep with electricity production companies to keep peak loads low. And that helps everyone including rate paying consumers.
It is a collaborative approach to the energy industry that is becoming the model for how energy companies can not only survive challenging business environments, but thrive, he said.
And thriving is what Harris is known for.
A former free safety who played for the Dallas Cowboys for 10 seasons, Harris appeared in five Super Bowls. The Cowboys defense ranked in the top 10 every year with him in the lineup. He is one of only 13 players in NFL history to play in five Super Bowls.
Known by his teammates and other players for his punishing hits and dogged pursuance of players carrying the ball, it didn't take long for Harris to get the nickname "Captain Crash."
His career though, started rather unremarkably. Born in 1948 in Fayetteville, Ark., Harris began playing football as a backup quarterback at Hot Springs High School. He later led his Des Arc High School team to an undefeated season.
Nevertheless, he was only offered a scholarship to play for Ouachita Baptist University, following in his father O.J. "Buddy" Harris' footsteps.
Not picked in the NFL draft, Harris was invited to a Cowboys training camp and he signed as a free agent. He was chosen among 11 others and was the only rookie to make the starting lineup in his first year.
"It was against all odds for me to make the team and starting," Harris said. "Out of 120 they picked 11 of us."
It might have been against the odds, but that didn't stop Harris from taking on the challenge.
According to an historic quote by Pro Football Hall of Fame safety Larry Wilson, "Harris is the finest free safety in the business today. He changed the way the position is being played. You see other teams modeling their free safety around the way Harris plays the pass, and striking fear in everyone on the field because he hits so hard."
But it was some of those hard hits after 10 years of the bruising game that were a part of the reason he decided to retire.
"What really got me out of pro football was a neck injury in my cervical vertebra," he said "When I would make a tackle... well, it would momentarily paralyze me on the field."
But that call, no matter how necessary, was not in keeping with who Harris was. He grieved the loss in Super Bowl 13 to the Pittsburgh Steelers and he grieved more the loss of the chance to go back and get it right.
"Every time I see Roger Staubach we say to each other, 'What happened in Super Bowl 13?'," Harris said. "There were just a lot of things. The game could have gone one way or another but they beat us..I think that game and that part of my life represent something that I would like to have a shot at again."
Shortly after, Harris entered the energy industry and said he has never really looked back. It was almost as rough and tumble as the football field but this...this was an industry full of opportunities to recreate the goal and do it again.
Today, Harris is still relentlessly pursuing the goal line in the energy industry he entered in the mid 1980s. He's seen more than his fair shares of ups and downs and knows how to change the playbook to succeed.
"Well I enjoy the challenge that exists with the opportunities ahead in the area that I am pursuing. I really have a confidence about it and I am passionate about doing the right thing," Harris said. "The compression we are putting in saves the environment, it saves the power grid and saves companies. So I believe in what I am doing and that makes my goal easier."