If you interview the 2,000 fans who were allowed to train in Cincinnati Bengals training camp on Saturday and Sunday, there may be few who have heard of Clark Harris.
That you don’t know him might not be a bad thing. A broadcast crew usually only brings up the long snapper when the ball is off target. Harris was incredibly accurate with 1,699 snaps currently playable.
Superstitious Bengals Special Team coach Darrin Simmons may not want to make a big deal of it, but it’s a pretty big deal.
“He was super reliable,” said Simmons. “We had some problems with some injuries and dents over time, but he was super reliable.”
Harris wears the number 46, but that is often obscured by the fact that he hunched over and turned a football between his legs towards Kevin Huber. Both are entering their 13th NFL seasons and both are well on their way to overtaking former quarterback Ken Anderson on the list of all-time played games.
Anderson played 192 games, followed by Reggie Williams (206) and Ken Riley (207). Harris starts the season at 184, Huber at 190. On their way to a 13th season, the duo are now approaching the Bengali longevity of Jim Breech, Anthony Munoz, Joe Walter and Rich Braham, a kicker and three offensive linemen.
“Thanks to Darrin Simmons for always putting in a good word to keep us here,” said Harris. “I think we are now the two longest tenured guys in the league. It’s pretty cool, I don’t have to go around the country like some other guys.”
Harris, a seventh-round pick by the Green Bay Packers in 2007, was a close end at Rutgers, who luckily took long snaps in high school when his team was in need. At that time, he had to take off his receiving gloves the fourth time to do his job. At first he tried to catch balls in the NFL, hopping back and forth between the Packers and Lions before becoming Bengal in 2009.
“I think he found out that it was going to be difficult for him to make it through playing the tight end,” said Simmons. “He’s been on the training team and has cut several times. He realized that snapping could be ‘in’ and he made the right choice.”
What Harris taught himself is now being taught in numerous camps across the country where players attempt to create rosters using the special skill.
“It’s become a position of sorts,” Harris said with a laugh. “I mean, Madden (game) hasn’t accepted it as a position yet, but I’m overwhelmed that it really has become a thing.”
Where speed is emphasized in some circles, Harris and Simmons pride themselves on having an accurate snapshot. Simmons pointed out that a quick snap that requires a range is practically the same thing as a slightly slower one.
“I compare it to a pitcher in baseball throwing 100 mph, but they’re not going to do it every time they need the accuracy,” Harris said. “I’m losing a little weight just to be more specific.”
Harris made it to the Pro Bowl in 2017. At 37, he is the oldest player in the Bengals, just ahead of his 36-year-old teammate Huber. Both are a little younger than 38-year-old head coach Zac Taylor.
Huber was a Bengals fifth round pick in 2009 and was the recipient of most of the 1,699 playable snaps Harris made. In 2014 he made it to the Pro Bowl.
“It was really nice to have Clark all the way to the side,” said Huber. “Some guys have had multiple snaps. I’ve been at the end of all of them (snaps) except for a couple of games when I got injured in 2013.”
As a punter, Huber has been around longer and has played more yards than Lee Johnson from 1988 to 1998. Johnson played 169 games in a row for the Bengals and had a career NFL average of 42.4 yards per kick. Huber has a robust average of 45.3 backed by last year’s 47.2 yards.
The left foot placement specialist leads the Bengals in almost every punting category, including the longest kick from the scrimmage of 75 yards.
“It flew by,” said Huber over the years. “It seems like I was in Georgetown, Kentucky yesterday. It was a fun ride. I think Clark and I have plenty of time.”
With Tom Brady winning a Super Bowl in Tampa Bay at the age of 43, Huber and Harris have no plans to step aside.
“You’re not old yet,” joked Simmons. “They are in the second nine, but they still have time. Huber has gotten better over time. Maybe it’s like a good wine, I think, it just gets better with age.”
Harris added, “I’ll hang out here in Cincinnati until we win the Super Bowl. Sooner or later I’ll get one!”
Huber is notable on the spot, having played in McNicholas high school before becoming the suitor of the Cincinnati Bearcats during the Brian Kelly regime. The Bengals took away another local, Drue Chrisman of Lawrenceburg, Indiana and La Salle High School. It averaged 44 yards per kick in the state of Ohio but is currently unavailable due to injury.