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Frank Harris missed the Frisco Bowl, but his legacy was evident in UTSA’s victory

The UTSA legend missed his final game with a shoulder injury, but his legacy was firmly cemented in the bowl win.

Scooter’s Coffee Frisco Bowl - UTSA v Marshall Photo by Sam Hodde/Getty Images

It was supposed to be the ultimate curtain call.

Not many active college football players have a claim to be their program’s most iconic player in history. UTSA quarterback Frank Harris is an exception to that statement.

The Roadrunners’ program is only in its 13th season and Harris has been around for more than 50 percent of UTSA football’s existence. The seventh-year senior started four years at quarterback and produced four winning seasons, two Conference USA championships, and four bowl appearances. The recordholder for virtually every UTSA passing statistic won the 2022 CUSA MVP and earned two appearances as a first team all-conference quarterback.

But the hourglass exhausts at some point for all legendary college players. And the final specks of sand were set to funnel through Tuesday night at the Frisco Bowl. However, Harris’ legendary sendoff didn’t transpire as scheduled. The quarterback suffered an injury in the first half of the regular season finale against Tulane. After battling through pain the final two quarters, he discovered he fractured his shoulder during his MRI.

“I just wasn’t able to go,” Harris said. “I was just trying to fight through the pain but wasn’t able to. I didn’t want to come out here, limit myself, and try to play like that. I felt the team had a better choice of playing with Owen (McCown) 100 percent, and that’s what he did. Owen did a great job leading us to victory so hats off to him and I’m just glad we got our first bowl win.”

According to head coach Jeff Traylor, Harris’ unavailability wasn’t earth-shattering news. Harris spoke at Frisco Bowl media day roughly 34 hours before kickoff as if he would play, but UTSA prepared Owen McCown to start the bowl the entire time.

“We knew Frank wasn’t gonna play for the last three-and-a-half weeks and our team didn’t tell a single soul,” Traylor said. “It was the best kept secret ever in San Antonio I can imagine.”

Harris and Traylor manufactured a statement in the moments leading up to kickoff about the injury. After hearing reports that he was ‘opting out,’ Harris wanted to clear the air sooner, but there was also the strategic aspect — as UTSA didn’t want Marshall to know until McCown took the field Tuesday.

“I don’t like how some people were trying to portray that I was opting out and not playing for my team,” Harris said. “I’m not that kind of guy. I would never do something like that. If I could have played, I promise you I would have played but I literally can’t play. My shoulder is hurting pretty bad, but it’s not about me. It’s about my teammates and we went out there and won.”

Harris battled through a multitude of injuries this year, including a career-threatening one before the season commenced. The quarterback endured multiple leg surgeries in the offseason where he wasn’t sure if he would be able to walk again. Harris overcame that adversity and reverted to the starting lineup by Week 1. The following Saturday, he suffered a turf toe injury which held him out of the final two non-conference matchups. This shoulder injury was just the latest ailment Harris attempted to fight through, but couldn’t prevail in time for the Frisco Bowl.

“It was just too much of a risk and there was too much pain and he just couldn’t practice,” Traylor said. “He tried and he tried and he tried. The way he had in his mind, he was going to ride off into the sunset. Anybody that has the audacity to think that kid would have opted out and not played, it’s just amazing that you’ve ever watched the Roadrunners play one time in your life.”

Even without Harris in the lineup, the Roadrunners captured their first-ever bowl win. The team overcame a 14-0 deficit in the early going, and McCown’s in-game improvement solidified an inspiring comeback. The quarterback overcame a 1-of-6 start plagued with two interceptions and completed 21 of his final 25 attempts for 250 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Harris assisted McCown in practice as the redshirt freshman prepared to make his first start as a Roadrunner, and the seventh-year senior’s contributions were evident. Traylor believes the culture Harris created during his tenure with the program fueled UTSA’s historic bowl win in Frisco, TX.

“He’s as much the reason we won as anybody,” Traylor said. “That grit of that team, the character we had when we were down 14-0 — I bet if all the Roadrunner fans were honest, a bunch of them were probably ready to give up when it was 14-0. Those kids just won’t ever go away. We’ve seen them do it for a long time now. That’s because of Frank Harris.”

While Harris expressed disappointment he couldn’t suit up for his final game at UTSA, Tuesday night was evidently a thrilling one for the Roadrunner legend. From taking pictures and signing autographs for the fans pregame, to supporting McCown on the sideline, to hoisting the Frisco Bowl trophy with an infectious smile, Harris enthusiastically soaked in the final chapter of an accomplished football career in San Antonio.

“It’s bittersweet not playing in a UTSA jersey again,” Harris said. “I’m excited for the whole career that I had and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

As for what’s next, Harris remains undecided.

“I honestly couldn’t tell you,” Harris said. “My body is pretty banged up. If I do hang it up, I had a great career. I think God blessed me through so much that if my time is up, I’m okay with closing that chapter of my life, and if not, I’m fortunate enough to go out there and play again.”