He's come a long way

Aug. 23, 2010 at 3:23 a.m.

Bobby Harris has been playing football since most of his teammates on the Cuero Gobblers were in diapers. But this season, they share the same goal.

Harris has been playing at the professional and semi-pro level for 20 years, and is getting his first chance to win a championship Saturday when the Gobblers take on the Texas Mavericks in the South Texas Amateur Football's title game, the River City Bowl in San Antonio.

"That's what keeps me going is to say, 'Hey, now I do have a championship ring under my belt and it's with the Cuero Gobblers,'" said the 43-year-old.

The Victoria native was a three-year letter man at Stroman and was a part of the Raiders first playoff team before graduating in 1986.

After graduation, Harris played football for Blinn College before transferring to East Texas State University. He also tried out for the Dallas Cowboys as a free agent in 1990.

"It can overwhelm you a lot if you let it take you that way," said Harris about trying to make the team.

Although Harris never made it back to the NFL, his pro career was far from over. Harris kept himself physically and mentally ready for a return to the field.

"That had me staying alert so when something came up when I could play football again, I would be in shape," Harris said.

Harris played at the semi-pro level for teams in Victoria, San Antonio and Corpus Christi. Not only does he bring experience to the Gobblers, but also a great deal of knowledge about the game. He said he coached with the Victoria Kings, a previous semi-pro team, in 1996, and was on John Mares' staff at St. Joseph in 2005 and 2006.

"He's the type of guy that if you have any kind of questions, he'll stay after practice and he's a good role model for the team being that he's been there and he's willing to help with anything you need," said Tim Basquez, the Gobblers' owner and lineman.

Harris was invited by Gobbler running back/defensive back Rodney Jackson to try out for the team and Harris made a lasting first impression on the Cuero coaching staff.

"My first time when I saw Bobby I was like man this is a big beast we've got," said Gobblers' head coach Robert Hopkins. "He's huge, he's good and he really knows the game."

With Harris playing linebacker for one of STAF's two best defenses. The Gobblers also finished with STAF's best regular season record of 11-1.

After blowing out Pearsall in the first round of the STAF playoffs the Gobblers avenged their lone regular season loss with a 20-17 win over the Highway 87 rival Victoria to win the Cactus Conference and play in the River City Bowl.

On the field, Basquez said Harris is a role model, adding that off the field he's one of the good guys on the team. Harris helped him and his wife Billie that run the fledgling team from a distance easier.

"There's a lot of work that goes into it behind the scenes, everything from getting games arranged to getting the fields marked and Bobby is a blessing," Basquez said. "Being that we were in San Antonio if we needed something around the area all we had to do was make one phone call to Bobby.

For Harris, STAF had more of an up-tempo style compared to some of the other leagues he played in, and he raves about the talent the league has attracted.

"(There's) a lot of skilled athletes and potential for guys looking for college," Harris said. "You have some gentleman who can be in minor-league football and then further their career from there."

Championship or not, Harris won't be done with football after Saturday. He is still in pursuit of a coaching position at the high school level.

"I know that I can do and that I'm damn good at it and know the game because I did it professionally," Harris said.

The River City Bowl kicks off at 7:30 p.m. this Saturday at Frank Mata Stadium in San Antonio.



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