Richard Harris, the longtime defensive line coach with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, has died. He was 63.
Harris is survived by his wife Tami; their four children, Kimberly, Chianti, Jennifer, Michael; and three grandchildren, Chandler, Keegan-Michael, and Aurora.
Harris suffered a heart attack inside the team complex at Polo Park after the club moved indoors from practice. An ambulance arrived at Canad Inns Stadium shortly after he collapsed, and he was taken to hospital.
Players and office staff peered outside the office doors with concerned faces, some breaking down as the emergency medical staff treated their beloved coach in the ambulance.
"This has struck our entire organization from the top down," Bomber president Jim Bell said in a release. "We are all in a state of shock and first and foremost would like to express our deepest sympathies to his family. The Winnipeg Football Club has lost not only a great coach, but an even better man."
This season marked his sixth season with the Bombers and prior to this year, he was named assistant head coach to Winnipeg head coach Paul LaPolice.
Harris was a popular figure around the organization and in the city. A large man with a famous deep and booming voice, the always friendly Harris would often engage fans at practice, inquiring about their well being and taking the time to listen to the response.
Last season, Harris’ line was one of the best defensive fronts in the CFL. Defensive end Phillip Hunt led the league with 16 sacks, while Odell Willis finished with 11 sacks. Hunt and veteran tackle Doug Brown were named to the CFL all-star team under his watch.
Harris has been a defensive coach in the CFL since 2001, when he joined the B.C. Lions. Harris also coached in Ottawa (2005), spending one season with the Renegades before joining Doug Berry's coaching staff in Winnipeg for the 2006 season.
The Shreveport, Louisiana-native played seven years in the NFL as a defensive end. Drafted by Philadelphia in the first round of the 1971 NFL draft fifth overall, Harris played three seasons with the Eagles and was named to the all-rookie team in his first season (1971).
Harris also saw time on the field with the Chicago Bears (1974-75) and the Seattle Seahawks (1976-77).
Prior to his pro career, Harris was a standout pass rusher at Grambling State University, earning All-American honours in 1970.