LookBack9.24

This is a promotional photo from the University of Tennessee showing football standout Reggie Harper of Hartsville.

We continue our look at some local high school football players who were not just good, but were great.

But first an apology to Lester Joe, the mule.

In last week’s article on Danny Joe Gregory, we misnamed his talented, overall wearing pet mule. We called him Buford but his correct name is Mr. Lester Joe Gregory. Our sincere apologies!

I guess you know that someone is great when you can Google their name and it pops up on the Internet. Well, that’s just what I did to round out the info I needed to write this week’s article on Reggie Harper, another outstanding Trousdale County football player.

Since Reggie left here to play four years at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville under legendary coach Johnny Majors, it isn’t too surprising that the Internet knows who Mr. Harper is.

As a young fellow, Reggie was actually enthralled with basketball and was a starter on the TCHS high school basketball team as an eighth-grader. In his freshman year he helped the basketball team win 29 games, a record for the school.

He would excel in that sport due in part to his natural athletic ability. You know, the kind of guy who can play just about any sport at the drop of a hat.

Yet seeking to stay in shape and to stay busy between hoops, he went out for football and there he made his mark.

He was a starter three years in a row and each of those three years the team would be in the AA state championship playoffs.

His position as a tight end let him catch many a pass and then scurry across the goal line, no matter how close or far away it lay.

In his senior year at Trousdale County High School, he was named the Midstate MVP (Most Valuable Player).

An article in the Nashville Banner stated, “From the time he was a freshman, Reggie Harper has had a giant hand in continuing Hartsville’s seemingly never-ending winning ways. Whether it’s catching passes for long gains, returning punts, intercepting passes or throwing his dynamite block, the 6-4, 205-pound Yellow Jacket star has spared the Tobacco men to a 45-4, four-year record, including this 10-0 season.”

So it was little wonder that Coach Johnny Majors visited Hartsville and offered the young Reggie a four-year athletic scholarship to UT-Knoxville. We can also note that it was Johnny Majors’ first year as the head coach!

As a testament to his skills, Reggie was made a starter his freshman year!

We quote from an article written that freshman year, “It was awards day for Tennessee football players yesterday, and the man getting the biggest award was freshman Reggie Harper, who moved to the first unit as a tight end.

The promotion was not entirely unexpected, since the Hartsville star ignited the fire under a touchdown drive late in the third quarter that brought the Vols their second touchdown against Boston College and set the stage for a 24-18 victory.”

Now for the extra info I needed for my article.

According to the Vol record books, in his four years there Reggie caught a total of 98 passes for 1,141 yards and seven touchdowns.

The Internet piece stated that Reggie Harper holds the record for catches and total yards for the tight end position for the Volunteers.

During his four years at Knoxville, Reggie was selected by the Sporting News to its Freshman All-America team for 1977. He was an All-SEC selection his junior year and in his senior year played in the Hula Bowl. In 1980, he was given the Mickey O’Brien Award.

Reggie returned to Trousdale County after college, but his life was cut short due to illness. He passed away in 2012 at the age of 53, leaving a son, Michael.

People still talk about the years Reggie played football for both TCHS and UT.

In conversation a fan might comment on seeing this play or that play or the time he pulled the team to a win and another fan will comment on his legendary skill, like the time he made a one-handed catch for UT against Auburn in 1980.

Things like that stay in your memory and Reggie Harper will stay in Trousdale County’s memory for a long time.

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