In 1956 against Colorado, the Sooners trailed 19-6 at halftime and on the first possession of the second half faced a fourth-and-2 from their own 28. Harris called a running play, giving it to Thomas for the first down. OU came back for a 27-19 win.
“Jimmy was always one of my dad's favorites,” Jay said. “He was such an extraordinary leader.”
He was the polar opposite of Bud Wilkinson, but the pair formed a strong bond that lived on long after Harris' playing days ended.
Harris was just 10 when his father died.
“My dad, in many respects, served as a surrogate father to Jim,” Jay said. “They continued to talk really until dad's death.”
So when Harris was conflicted over what career path to take after spending a couple of years in the NFL as a defensive back, it wasn't a surprise when Harris sought his mentor's advice.
“I would get my geology degree,” Wilkinson told Harris. “When you turn about 45, you're going to wish that you were a geologist.”
Harris returned to play pro football for two years but started a successful career in business even before his playing career ended, eventually co-founding Midroc Operating Company.