Earlier this week, in a post on free agent targets, I referred to a free agent piece written by Grantland’s Bill Barnwell. In that article, Barnwell warned of signing free agent wide receivers who were the second or third option in an efficient passing attack. He aptly called it the Alvin Harper rule. While I can’t argue with Barnwell’s reasoning, I still hold no negative feelings towards Alvin Harper. I’m sure if I were a Bucs fan, I would feel differently, but when I think of Harper I’m instantly reminded of two things. The first memory that comes to mind is Harper dunking over the goal post in Super Bowl XXVII. The second, and most fond memory I have of Harper, is the slant pass he caught from Aikman in the 1992 NFC Championship.
Walk up to most Cowboys’ fans and say, “Aikman to Harper”, and they will know exactly what you’re talking about. Obviously, the play was the proverbial nail in the coffin in that game, but it meant more than that. For an entire generation of Cowboys’ fans it was a defining moment.
I was not alive when the Cowboys won their first two Super Bowls, and, for most of my formative years they weren’t that great. Meanwhile, the San Francisco 49ers were the best, seemingly unbeatable. I can remember prior to the ’92 season, SI ran a cover that predicted that the Cowboys would be the team of the 90’s, and, while that was exciting to see, it still seemed slightly farfetched. Beating the Niners and becoming the class of the league kind of felt like a pipe dream. All of that changed with Aikman to Harper.
When Alvin caught that slant and dashed seventy some yards to set up the NFC Championship sealing touchdown, a new era was born. Suddenly, the fanbase and the team had a champion’s swagger that wouldn’t go away for another five years. Over the years, I’ve seen countless shows dedicated to that game, and that play still gives me goosebumps twenty years later.
If you want a really great breakdown of the play, visit this Bob Sturm interview with Troy. A lot of people probably know this already, but The Playmaker was supposed to run that slant. He made Alvin switch sides with him in the huddle.