October 13, 2009 8:04:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- It didn''t take long for Randall Bradberry to discover James "Cubby" Harris'' talent.
When Bradberry became the football coach at what was known then as East Mississippi Junior College in 1976, he didn''t know much about the recruits who were coming in for the fall season. Bradberry arrived at Scooba from Delta State and admitted he was "out of the loop."
Harris came into Bradberry''s office and wanted to try out for the Lions.
After an outstanding career as a defensive back at Starkville High School, Harris believed he could contribute at EMJC.
Bradberry didn''t recruit Harris, so the only way he could evaluate Harris was to turn him loose on the football field.
He was immediately impressed.
"We had Dikki Dyson (who went on to play at the University of Alabama) on that team and he went against Cubby," Bradberry said. "When Dyson came back to the huddle in the first week we were out there and he said, ''Coach, I can''t beat that guy.'' He asked to be moved to the other side of the football. Everybody realized he was a great player. I didn''t have anything to do with him becoming a great player. He was a natural."
Harris, who got his nickname for wearing a Chicago Cubs'' jacket as a youngster in Starkville, went on to capture National Junior College Athletic Association Honorable Mention All-America honors as a sophomore. He also played in Mississippi''s Junior College All-Star Game as an All-State selection, and was voted the Lions'' Most Valuable Player, best defensive back, and team captain.
Harris will add to that list this weekend when he''s inducted into the East Mississippi Community College Sports Hall of Fame.
Harris learned of the honor in a letter from EMCC Director of Development Nick Clark.
"I was surprised," Harris said. "To sit back and have somebody see something you did that was good and was respected, it means the world to me."
Bradberry said Harris was a cornerback who could "latch onto an opposing wide receiver" and shut them down.
In nine games as a sophomore in 1977, Harris had 11 interceptions, including back-to-back three-interception games against Copiah-Lincoln and Coahoma. He returned one of the interceptions against Co-Lin 108 yards for a touchdown.
"I always brag about that," Harris said. "I try to talk about that all of the time."
Harris played at Starkville High from 1973-75 for coaches Jim Craig and G.T. Thames. The Yellow Jackets won the Little 10 championship in Harris'' junior and senior years.
He was a three-sport letterman (football, basketball, and track and field) at Starkville High, but it didn''t take him long to discover football was his calling.
Harris, who was a captain as a senior, capped his high school career by earning All-Conference and best defensive back honors.
He credits position coaches Ray Self at Starkville High and Steve Davis at EMJC (1976-77) for keeping him on the right path.
"(Self) told me to never say never and never give up," Harris said. "Dealing with him one on one played a big part in my life. It was the same for coach Davis. Position coaches let you know what you can do if you put your mind to it."
Harris learned the importance of education in high school. He said coach Craig stressed student-athletes who you stayed in their books, went to class, and did what they were told would have unlimited opportunities.
Once in junior college, Bradberry said Harris listened and was a fantastic learner.
"He was a great guy and easy to coach," Bradberry said. "He was a unique individual and one who made coaching fun."
Harris went on to play at Arkansas State from 1977-78 for coach Larry Lacewell. He became a two-year starter at defensive back for the Indians.
He was named second-team All-Conference as a junior with 28 tackles and two interceptions and helped Arkansas State to a 7-4 record and the 1978 Southland Conference championship.
As a senior, Harris had 32 tackles, four tackles for loss, and three interceptions.
Harris met his future wife, Jackie, at Arkansas State and they moved back to Starkville. They have three children (a daughter, Latesia; and two sons, Jacoby and Joshua).
Harris intends to use his EMCC Hall of Fame recognition in a positive way as an active sponsor and coach for area youth in basketball, football, and baseball. He has tried to do what people did for him while he was growing up and will continue to encourage the youth of Starkville to be the best they can be.
"I can let kids know that if you work hard at something, you will get rewarded," Harris said.
The 10 EMCC Sports Hall of Fame inductees will be honored Friday and Saturday on the Scooba campus. There will be a reception and banquet held in their honor Friday night and they will be recognized during pre-game festivities of Saturday''s 2 p.m. homecoming game against Northeast Mississippi Community College.
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