Shortly after I began contributing to Land Grant Holy Land, I realized that I was already struggling to come up with good content for the offseason/summer months. Hell of a start, right? But unfortunately, once the NFL Draft takes place, the content well tends to dry up unless you’ve already dialed in on one of the spring sports or the NBA Draft (but as Buckeye hoops fans... you get it). Ohio State football and basketball – our most popular topics – are still part of the news cycle, but they have taken a back seat. And recruiting... well, there are people at LGHL who do a hell of a job covering it, so I wasn’t about to swim with those sharks.
I needed to think outside the box. I thought: Football is months away, basketball is months away, recruiting is speculative and subject to change... many of the topics being covered now revolve around future events or predictions. But what about former players? And I’m not talking recent or soon-to-be draftees, because those athletes are still being talked or written about.
I am referring to unheralded and underappreciated Buckeyes from decades ago, that have been forgotten by some (or most) since they last donned the scarlet and gray. And there it was: Forgotten Buckeyes. Other OSU fans and media types have taken a similar approach to recognition, but this is my personal way of appreciating those who left an indelible mark at Ohio State.
Welcome to Volume II.
Raymont Harris | Running back (1989-1993)
Forgotten Buckeyes is dipping back into the early 1990’s pool once again. I promise I won’t spend all summer reminiscing about players from exactly 30 years ago, but frankly, this man was the first Ohio State running back I remember watching, and I don’t think he gets enough credit for what he achieved as a player.
Raymont Harris (AKA Quiet Storm, a fantastic nickname) was an old school, bruising runner who produced across four seasons for OSU, and a player whose name is listed just outside the top-10 of many of the school’s statistical rushing categories. Due to his continued involvement with the local community – and the university in particular – Harris is more recognizable around Columbus than many of his predecessors in this series, but there are still plenty of fans who forgot or never knew just how good he was on the football field.
Harris was another homegrown Buckeye, having attended high school in Lorain, Ohio (near Cleveland), and he ended up at Ohio State almost purely based off of potential. Because, unlike many “traditional” recruits, he was not overly productive in high school (in totality). It wasn’t that Harris lacked talent, or was a backup to some megastar, or even that he spent time at a different position — He simply wasn’t available! According to buckeyerosters.com, Harris only played in a total of seven varsity football games due to injury. When he was healthy, he was wildly productive. The future OSU combo back averaged 200 yards rushing in those seven games, which was good enough for John Cooper and the Ohio State coaching staff.
Unfortunately for Harris, his first season at OSU (1989) was spent on the sideline — again, due to injury. Although it was nothing major, the first-year back sustained a foot injury in spring practice, and the decision was made to redshirt him as a result. The Buckeyes still had a solid ground game in his absence, with three players rushing for more than 500 yards each.
In 1990, as a redshirt freshman, Harris joined a running back by-committee and found immediate success. He rushed for 519 yards, but took a back seat to two-time Ohio Mr. Football and star freshman, Robert Smith. Smith rushed for 1,126 yards on just 177 carries (6.4 YPC), and appeared as if he would dominate backfield touches for the next few seasons. But the Big Ten Freshman of the Year had other ideas. Smith chose to step away from football shortly before the 1991 season, and Harris was expected to benefit from his surprising decision. Instead, the RB committee grew, and Harris played a bit of a combo role.
You may have noticed by now that I have specifically avoided the term running back or tailback when it applies to Harris. While he was definitely more of a runner, many backs under Cooper played utility-type roles. Harris, Scottie Graham, and Jeff Cothran all spent time both running and blocking during that ‘91 season, and they also shared the rock with Carlos Snow and Butler By’Not’e — the two main tailbacks. The five backs each had more than 42 carries in 1991, and they combined for 506! The Buckeyes were forced to lean on the running game, but it was Harris who took a big step back in terms of usage.
The crowded backfield gained even more talent in 1992, but Harris was used to it after three seasons in the program, and he played the role that was asked of him. Smith returned to the team, and Ohio State also welcomed some guy named Eddie George. Once again, Cooper and his coaches split up carries and relied heavily upon the run game, with Harris receiving 107 total touches. It was another ho-hum season for both he and the Buckeyes, but patience was about to pay off. OSU finally tabbed Harris as “the man” in 1993, and the team ended up having the best season of his collegiate career.
Despite having Eddie Freaking George for a second season, the coaches gave Harris a featured role. Better yet, he earned it. And he was pretty damn productive as the primary back. He gained 1,344 yards on 273 carries, and added 12 touchdowns. Harris’ single-season rushing total in 1993 was good for sixth-best in Ohio State history (at the time), and he finished his collegiate career with 2,649 yards — fifth at the time. In his fifth and final season, the Buckeyes went 10-1-1, and Harris was the team’s most productive offensive player. His patience and hard work paid off even more in April, when the Chicago Bears selected him in the fourth round of the 1994 NFL Draft. Not too bad for a guy who played seven games in high school and was not featured until his fifth college season.
The Bears drafted Harris to play his old utility role, and even nicknamed him “Ultraback.” He was able to run, catch, and block, which he did for four seasons in Chicago. He took on more of a featured role in 1997, rushing for 1,033 yards and 10 TDs. It was his best statistical season with the team, but it was heavily rooted in opportunity and touches. He averaged less than four yards per touch, and the Bears let him walk after the ’97 season. Harris played parts of two more seasons in the NFL before wrapping up his playing career in 2000. It was not the most illustrious professional career, but not many can claim a 1,000-yard rushing season. And Harris always played the game the right way, in whatever role he was asked to perform.
Harris became a Columbus staple once again in 2002, when he began working for WBNS Radio. But the station decided to go with a nationally-syndicated ESPN show (Mike & Mike) in 2005, and Harris found work elsewhere. Things came full-circle in 2008, when he joined Ohio State’s Fisher College of Business as the Assistant Director of Development. He has since moved to the OSU Department of Athletics, in a role he still holds today. He is the current Director of Development, which makes him responsible for major gifts for all athletic priorities, including endowments and capital projects. He also made a single appearance as a uniform model for the university in 2009, and intimidated the hell out of other men his age (Google it).
The Quiet Storm is quietly still making moves in the athletic world, albeit in what some would consider to be a “non-traditional” role. Harris grew accustomed to such roles as a Buckeye, but his team-first attitude and on-field contributions deserve proper recognition.