Major Harris-- How I Landed This "Major" Book Deal

RG YohoCorrespondent IApril 23, 2009

Early in 2007, I first came up with the idea of writing this book on former Mountaineer football great, Major Harris.


As a part of my wildly conceived master plan, it was my intention to have the book published by the beginning of the 2008 football season. I also expected to have this book on the shelves during the twentieth anniversary of West Virginia’s undefeated 2008 football season.


Like West Virginia’s 1988 season, the timing would have been perfect!


However, there was one “major” problem with my plan.


At that time I had no clue of how to reach Major Harris. In fact, I was not even certain where he lived. And all of my attempts to reach him or learn his phone number had been largely unsuccessful.


Still I was not deterred.


It was my desire to write a biography about a man who I’d never met.


A relatively unknown writer who had never written a sports book was seeking a book deal with a famous former athlete—it seemed like a daunting and possibly unrealistic task. However, those who know me well know that I can be singularly devoted to the pursuit of a goal.


Moreover, I have never been afraid of being told “no.”


Still unsure of how to make this difficult dream a reality, I was watching a football game between West Virginia and Syracuse in late 2007. That year was also the twentieth anniversary of Syracuse’s undefeated season, a season in which the game and the outcome of their season were decided on the last play of the game.


Before going to one of their commercial breaks, the announcers said they would be discussing that historic 1987 football game and interviewing one of its participants, former West Virginia quarterback Major Harris.


Of course there was no way I was going to miss that.


During the course of the interview, they asked Major about his life and what he was currently doing. Harris stated that he was helping to coach football at his old high school.


Racing to my computer, I immediately looked up the address of his old high school from the internet. Then I prepared a letter to Major Harris and stated my case for writing his book. A couple of days later, I mailed the letter to him, in care of the school.


It boldly started with these words: 


Dear Mr. Harris,

I am the best writer you’ve never heard of…


About a week later, my phone rang. On the line, to my surprise, was the voice of a man who identified himself as Major Harris.

During the course of our phone conversations, I learned that somebody had already talked to Harris about writing a book about him, a book that would actively focus on that special 1988 football season.


Major said he’d already given this man the go ahead to write his biography. He’d given his word. For that reason, he didn’t want to do anything that would undermine the other writer’s efforts.


Immediately, I found myself greatly impressed by this fine aspect of Major’s character. Despite my enthusiasm for the project, I had no desire to harm his good name.


It was then I decided that this was just another one of my great book ideas ruined by my perpetually bad sense of timing. Perhaps it wasn’t meant to be.


Then another year passed.


One evening I was reading the local paper and learned that Major Harris would be making an appearance only minutes from my home.


I had patiently waited for the book on Major to be published by the other author. It never came. Nor did I even think there even was one.


Perhaps there was still some hope for me to make this dream a reality.


I arrived at the mall quite some time before Major’s appearance. It was there I talked his agent, who showed up with the footballs, photos, and memorabilia to be autographed.


Major had yet to arrive.


Once again, I presented my plan to write about Major’s life while his agent listened. Later, Major joined us. Then the two of them invited me to join them at the restaurant after they were done.


Any self-respecting Mountaineer fan who wouldn’t jump at the chance to dine with a football legend such as Major Harris isn’t fit to don the blue and gold! Obviously I was excited by the invitation…and the possibilities for a book agreement.


When I left that restaurant, I gladly shook hands with the two of them and stood watching as they drove away. Then I immediately got on the phone to my lovely, but occasionally skeptical wife to share with her the good news…


Her devoted, but occasionally annoying husband finally was going to be successful in his desire to pen the authorized biography of Major Harris.


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