James Larnell "Shack" Harris
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James "Shack" Harris


He was the First Black Quarterback to start and win a game in the NFL.

James Larnell “Shack” was born July 20, 1947 in Monroe, La. Harris was a graduate of Carroll High School and a local football star who went on to become the first Black Quarterback in the National Football League to start and win a game..

He played with such teams as the Los Angeles Rams, and the San Diego Chargers.

Harris was drafted in the eighth round of the Common Draft by the American Football League's Buffalo Bills, and would soon join fellow rookie O.J. Simpson in the starting backfield. Continuing the American Football League's more liberal (than the NFL's) personnel policies, the Bills made Harris the first black player to start a season at quarterback in the history of pro football. Harris was also just the second black player in the modern era to start in any game as quarterback for a professional football team. Wide receiver Marlin Briscoe, of the AFL's Denver Broncos, had been the first to start a game at quarterback in 1968, and a few of Harris's completions in 1969 went to Briscoe, who, by that time, had been traded to the Bills and had been converted to the position of receiver. After three years with the Bills, Harris was released by the team and signed by the Los Angeles Rams in 1972.

In 1973, Harris was the understudy to veteran John Hadl as the Rams went 12-2 and returned to the playoffs for the first time since 1969 . As the 1974 season began, the Rams offense sputtered under Hadl and the team stood at 3-2 after five games. In an effort to spark the Los Angeles offense, Rams head coach Chuck Knox promoted Harris as the starting quarterback. In his starting debut for the Rams against the San Francisco 49ers, Harris completed 12 of 15 passes for 276 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for another as the Rams won easily, 37-14, at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Two days later, Hadl was then traded to Green Bay, and Harris became the Rams' first-string quarterback for the remainder of the 1974 season. The football world was stunned by the bold move. However, Harris came through by leading the team to seven wins in its last nine re
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Shack in Action
gular season games. He led the team to its second straight NFC Western Division title, and their first playoff victory (19-10 over the Washington Redskins) since 1951. Harris thus became the first African-American quarterback to start and win an NFL playoff game. The Rams lost the NFC Championship Game to the Minnesota Vikings 14-10. He was named to the NFC Pro Bowl team in 1974 and was awarded MVP of that game.


Harris had the distinction of being the only Black quarterback to start for three different pro football teams. He was named the most valuable player for the Los Angeles Rams in 1974; most valuable player in the Pro Bowl in 1974 and the number 2 passer in the NFL in 1974. He was listed as the most accurate passer in the NFL in 1976 and the Number 1 passer in the NFC for 1976.

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Shack's Collector Card