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But life goes on. He is taking a ballet class and he participates without smirking. "I'm proud to tell people I take ballet," says Rice, a former Prop 48 student who will graduate with a degree in psychology on May 20. "What's wrong with it?"
Back at his apartment, Rice stares out into the rain and the gloom and says, "In life you don't always get what you want. When things went wrong when I was growing up, my mom always said, 'Try harder.' So what I'm doing now is trying harder. There just has to be a place for somebody like me who can do one thing: win games. Maybe it's the NFL missing out instead of me. Maybe it doesn't know what I have to offer."
Rice plans to visit Saskatchewan this weekend. But he still hasn't gotten used to the idea of playing north of the border, or to the notion that the pro football played up there is the real thing. A fan comes up in a restaurant and asks, "So, are you going pro?"
"No, I'm going to Canada."
Last Friday, at his parents' home in Pittsburgh's Hill District housing project, Harris's father, Joseph, was saying, "I think the pros were too busy looking at Major's faults instead of at his talent." Major was happy to agree with that observation, although he laughed and said, "Ahhh, maybe I wasn't good enough." But he doesn't believe that. In fact, he thought he might be the first pick in the draft or, at worst, a first rounder. Says Harris, "Maybe this year they saved the best for the last."
Asked about his strength as a player, Harris says, "Getting the ball into the end zone." And his weakness? "What the NFL saw in me."
What the NFL saw in him was about the same thing it saw in Rice, which is to say not much. Harris ran a painfully slow 4.98 and 5.02 in the 40 at the April scouting combine for juniors who had forfeited their remaining college eligibility to enter the draft. Like Rice, Harris says he was pleased with his throwing at the combine, but nobody said a word to him. And nobody called Harris's agent, Ed Abram, afterward. Abram concedes his client has not been a pro-style quarterback but says, "Come on, it's not like developing a nuclear equation to learn how to drop back. He can be taught."
Joe Kapp, the former Minnesota Vikings quarterback who is now general manager of football operations for the British Columbia Lions, the team that acquired the CFL draft rights to Harris, is not worried. "The NFL doesn't want to know about bowlegged, bad-breath guys even if all they do is win," says Kapp. "It wants blond-haired, blue-eyed, straight-legged guys. Major is a Magic Johnson type. He'll be our point guard."
Harris denies Thomas's accusation that he panics. One stat offers a strong defense for Harris on that score: During his three years at West Virginia he was responsible for converting 197 of 226 third-down situations. As for his scrambling, Harris says that he usually had no choice because in many instances he had only two receivers out, and when they were covered, he tried to make something happen by running. Finally, Harris maintains that he didn't cast stones at his teammates. "When we lost, I was a big cog in the losing," he says.
The NFL didn't like his six-foot height any more than it liked Rice's. Another blemish on Harris's r�sum� is a 19-9 loss to Penn State last season, in which he fumbled three times. Pro scouts couldn't forget that debacle. Says Harris, "Every player has a bad game." Few scouts seem to remember that he completed 17 of 20 throws against South Carolina earlier in the fall.