Harris packing a Pro Bowl bag

Posted Jan 16, 2018

On Tuesday an honorary equipment guy found out he gets to pack a bag to the Pro Bowl when Clark Harris became the first pure long snapper in 50 years of Bengaldom to be sent to the NFL all-star game. The Everyman joined A.J. Green and Geno Atkins on the list with their combined 13 Pro Bowls.

Clark Harris: a Pro Bowl call.
It was a big day in the Bengals equipment room.

On Tuesday one of their own was named to the Pro Bowl when Clark Harris became the first pure long snapper in 50 years of Bengaldom to be sent to the NFL all-star game. And the guys packing him up for the Jan. 28 game in Orlando, Fla., know him better than most at Paul Brown Stadium.

“He’s always in our room hanging out, talking to us, killing time,” said head equipment manager Adam Knollman after finding out they’ve got to get a bag ready for someone other than six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins. “Yeah, I guess you could say he’s an honorary equipment guy.”

Wide receiver A.J. Green had a bag for a seventh Pro Bowl but he’s not going because of a minor injury.  Harris, the Everyman Pro Bowler from Jersey, is packing for his first with 11 seasons, 140 games, and more than 1,300 snaps. He admitted he nearly went through the roof when head coach Marvin Lewis called Tuesday with the ticket.

“He said, ‘Pack your bag, you’re going to the Pro Bowl,’” Harris said.

Once they are named after they lose the AFC Divisional, the Pro Bowl coaching staffs must choose a long snapper in addition to the rosters they already have. As fate would have it, the arch-rival Steelers are coaching the AFC, thanks to Jags quarterback Blake Bortles. Bengals special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons assumes Danny Smith, his opposite number in Pittsburgh, made the call on Harris with maybe help from the Steelers personnel department. Whoever did it, Harris tweeted a thank you.

“It’s a sign of respect,” Simmons said. “I’m very happy for him. It’s been a long time coming. He’s been such a steady, reliable player for us for nine seasons.”

Harris, 33, thought his best chance at ever going to the game was three years ago when his punter Kevin Huber went. It’s just not the type of thing a long snapper lolls around thinking about.

“It’s about playing in the Pro Bowl or the Super Bowl and I haven’t made it to the Super Bowl yet,” Harris said. “So I’m super excited. It’s an honor. I guess playing ten years did amount to something. You know how that goes. The only time you really get noticed is when something bad happens.”

Bad just hasn’t happened yet to Harris. He’s never delivered an unplayable snap since he arrived as a free agent on Oct. 13, 2009 after he was waived or released seven times. That’s 1,292 straight deep snaps in 136 games.

All but a handful of that perfection has been to Huber. He was halfway through his rookie year when Harris arrived and they’ve been together ever since and haven’t missed yet.

Kevin Huber: perfect pitch (and catch) with Clark Harris.
“I’ve been waiting for it. I’ve been waiting for him to go,” Huber said. “I think the snapper should be voted in. How much do the coaches really put into it? They should go on how many tackles they make and how they do in coverage. It should be voted. If they did that he definitely would have gone by now.”

1,292-0. Huber isn’t surprised.

“Nothing rattles him. I don’t know if that’s his Jersey background or what,” Huber said. “But that's why he's so good. I know it’s going to be good. If the game id on the line or in a downpour or whatever, he’s always the same. Nothing bothers him. I mean, I could see him doing it for 20 years.”

Simmons likes how he snaps and blocks at the same time and how he did it this year with so many different people next to him in the revolving door of ’17. He also likes how Harris spits back information at him once he comes back to the sideline. You’ve heard of Andy Dalton on offense and Vontaze Burfict on defense and now you know Simmons’ guy on the field.
“Clark doesn’t want much, he just wants to do his job,” Simmons said. “And he does it well. I’m glad someone else recognized it other than me ... He’s an extension of the coaching staff.

How valuable is he? How many 33 year-olds get a contract extension in the league even if you are a coaching extension? At just more than $1 million, he’s the fourth-highest-paid snapper in the league. Quietly. Like everything else he does. With 136 Bengals games, he’s tied for 23rd on the all-time list with Robert Geathers and Tony McGee. Only his buddy Huber has played in more Cincy games on the current roster with 142.

The guest list is easy so far. His wife, Jessica. His two boys, five and one and a half. His mother and step-dad, who already winter in Florida. And various friends. A bunch of regular guys to be sure. And now for Simmons that means he’s sent to the Pro Bowl a punter (Huber), a kicker (Shayne Graham in 2005), a cover guy (Cedric Peerman in 2015), and now Harris.

"There’s only one downer and that’s really not even a downer with the game not in Hawaii,” Harris said. “It’s in Orlando, so that means Disney and the kids will probably like that better. Even (the younger one). He’ll see his big brother getting on the rides and want to follow him.”

After 1,300 snaps, the ride gets even better.

“He plays with a lot of passion and I think the guys who play with him understand that and appreciate it,” Simmons said.

So do the guys packing his bags. When he’s not with Huber and kicker Randy Bullock during practice, he can be seen helping Sam Staley and Tyler Runk, Knollman’s assistants. Maybe it’s shagging some balls or grabbing bags. The Everyman is everywhere.

“Clark’s the man,” Staley said of the news. “Today’s no different. He was in here working out and in the room talking to us like he’s always talking to us. Talking to us like a regular guy even though he’s a Pro Bowler.”

The honorary equipment guy is about to get the bag of honor.

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