Tackle is third Sooner to be named top lineman
HOUSTON -- Oklahoma tackle Tommie Harris won the Lombardi Award as the nation's top college lineman Wednesday night, one year after being the runner-up for the honor.
The finalists all vote for the award but Harris declined to cast one for himself.
"That just wouldn't be right," he said.
Harris was speechless when his name was announced.
"I didn't think I was going to get the award. I thought they'd give it to Ball," Harris said. "But it's nice to get some accolades for the fat boys in the line instead of the pretty boys getting all the praise."
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops applauded his junior star.
"He's had a great year," Stoops said. "Tommie gets back there in the backfield and creates problems."
One of Harris' biggest supporters was Oklahoma assistant coach Jackie Shipp, who has watched Harris grow into superstar status.
"It's almost like in the days of Joe Washington," Shipp said. "When the ball snapped, everyone looked to see what Joe would do. As a defensive tackle, we all want to see what Tommie is going to do next."
Harris is the 12th Oklahoma player to be a finalist and the third to win the honor.
He's considering skipping his senior season and moving on to the NFL next year, but he's not ready to say for sure.
"My family and I have to talk about it, but we'll let you know," Harris said.
Shipp would be sorry to see his big lineman leave, but recognizes the possibility.
"I'd be a fool not to think about it," Shipp said. "He's a very disruptive football player. At OU we like to be disruptive if you're not making the play. Tommy is one of those guys.
"If he's not sacking the quarterback, he'll be pressuring him or chasing the running back."
Harris was the 13th player to become a two-time finalist and the eighth to return and win the honor.
The Sooners will play LSU in the Nokia Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4 for the national championship. Oklahoma is ranked No.1 by the BCS despite losing to Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game.
"It's a blessing for me to be at the University of Oklahoma, I just hope we can go out in January and redeem ourselves," Harris said.
Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press