College Sports

From Lisch to Lynx: Harris bridges old and new traditions at Township Stadium

BND File Photo

With games yet to be played and some personal goals still within reach, Kam Harris hadn’t wasted any thought on the end of his remarkable run at the former Township Stadium in Belleville.

He’s been carrying the football there since 2008, when he was still just a freshman at Althoff trying to earn more varsity playing time. He stepped off its field for the last time Saturday, wearing the home colors of Lindenwood University-Belleville.

In the interim, the grandstands were rebuilt, the field changed colors and Harris amassed more than 6,100 yards rushing over more than 70 games, half of which were played on the candy-striped plastic pasture now known as Lindenwood Stadium.

The historical field originally was built by President Franklin Roosevelt’s depression-era Works Progress Administration and has seen some great ones in its time as the home of Belleville East and West, Althoff and LU-B football.

The difference between Lindenwood-Belleville and any program across the country that’s been around a long time is a tradition. We haven’t defined our tradition here yet, but I’ve played a part in building one and that’s pretty cool.

Kam Harris, LU-B Lynx running back

We’re talking the likes of Rusty Lisch, Ted Banker, Hickey Thompson, ... I could go on. And on ... and on....

But who among that vast list of local greats (Mike Simmonds, Jerry Muckensturm, DaRond Stovall ...) has played more games there than Harris?

“Man, when you put it that way ...” he said before the Lynx’s home finale Saturday. “Wow, I’ve played a lot of football on that field ... Man.”

A lot of football, for sure. More, even, than Gary Mauser, Matt Russell and Bob Goalby (yes, that Bob Goalby).

Recently retired Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill invited Harris to play at Northern Illinois after he had racked up 1,377 yards for the Crusaders his senior year. Harris, however, “had an issue” with his ACT and his recruiting stock fell accordingly.

He scored an impressive 29 on his third try, which punched his ticket to almost any college he wanted to attend. Harris signed on as a charter member of start-up Lindenwood-Belleville Lynx, where he could continue his college career on the same field where he accounted for more than 2,500 yards as a high school star.

He has since led the Lynx in rushing yards in all four seasons of the program’s existence. He was a USCAA second-team All-American in 2013, when he ran for 1,276 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Harris is still torching the turf at Township/Lindenwood Stadium, even now that the Lynx have made the jump to the NAIA and the competitive Mid-States Football Association. With 276 more yards over the final two games, he’ll have the second 1,000-yard season of his college career.

I wish I could have more than one year with Kam. In addition to what he does on the field, Kam defines leadership.

Dale Carlson, LU-B head football coach

From a team standpoint, though, success has been a little more elusive.

The Crusaders participated in just two playoff games during Harris’ tenure, and lost them both. The Lynx, meanwhile, are still looking for their first winning season, though they can get to .500 this year by winning their last two games.

And then there was the disappointment that came with the surprise firing of Jeff Fisher, Lindenwood-Belleville’s first head coach and the man that made Harris the centerpiece of the Lynx’s offense.

Harris adjusted — “I’m a football player. You have to roll with it,” he said — and became a locker room advocate on behalf of new coach Dale Carlson.

“I’m sure he was hurt by the change that happened, but in the same breath he really embraced me and the changes we made,” Carlson said. “I wish I could have more than one year with Kam. In addition to what he does on the field, Kam defines leadership.”

Harris defines his career a little differently.

“If I had to pick a word right now to define me and my career, it would be loyalty,” he said.

Loyalty has its rewards.

On his final game on the field he’s called home for the last eight years, Harris rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Lynx to a 20-16 signature win over No. 14-ranked Robert Morris.

He walked off the turf at the old Township Stadium for the last time, confident that what ends with him can be the beginning of a new tradition — one that bridges the gap between the likes of Joe Young, Tom Lang and Kirk Sonnenberg and the unwritten future of Lindenwood-Belleville.

“The difference between Lindenwood-Belleville and any program across the country that’s been around a long time is a tradition,” Harris said. “We haven’t defined our tradition here yet, but I’ve played a part in building one and that’s pretty cool.

“All we can do is move on and see how things turn out. Maybe someday, people will look back on the tradition we built and remember my part of it.”

Sports Editor Todd Eschman: 618-239-2540, @tceschman

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