Calvin F. Harrell Jr. (1949–1994)
Calvin Harrell is ranked among the best football players in Arkansas State University (ASU) history. He played under renowned head coach Bennie Ellender at ASU, playing in three Pecan Bowls and on the undefeated national small college championship team in 1970. He is a member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.
Calvin F. Harrell Jr. was born on September 7, 1949, to Calvin F. Harrell and Miriam Virginia Harrell. His father was a sheet metal worker. He had three sisters and two brothers.
After graduation from Trezevant High School in Memphis, Tennessee, as a star football player, he was recruited by ASU in Jonesboro (Craighead County) to play on the Indians (later renamed Red Wolves) football team. He was a powerful running back, standing at 6’1″ tall and weighing 222 pounds. During his college career, he gained 2,935 yards and scored twenty-six touchdowns. He was among the top rushers in school history, with eighteen 100-yard games. In 1970, he rushed for 252 yards against the Citadel.
When ASU defeated Drake University in the 1969 Pecan Bowl, he rushed for 160 yards for a touchdown. In the 1970 Pecan Bowl, he ran for 135 yards, leading the Indians to a win over Central Missouri State University. The victory sealed the Indians’ number-one national ranking along with the undisputed national championship.
He was selected as a First Team All-American in 1970 and 1971 by the American Football Coaches Association and Associated Press Second Team All-American in those same two years. In 1971, following his senior year, he participated in the prestigious North-South Shrine Game.
Harrell was drafted by the Miami Dolphins of the National Football League (NFL) in the seventh round in 1972 but decided instead to play in the Canadian Football League. His career with the Edmonton Eskimos lasted five seasons and forty-five games, during which time he gained 1,419 yards rushing on 346 carries and caught 116 passes for 1,203 yards. He scored fifteen rushing touchdowns and seven receiving.
In the 1974 Grey Cup (the Canadian version of the Super Bowl), he scored the only touchdown for the Eskimos, who lost 20–7 to the Montreal Alouettes. The touchdown resulted from an eight-yard reception, which he then fumbled but recovered for the touchdown.
After he retired from professional football, he married his college sweetheart, Genie Daugherty, and settled in her hometown of Augusta (Woodruff County). They had five sons. In the years following the end of his football career, Harrell made a living in a number of ventures, including coaching, farming, restaurant operation, and police work. He eventually began working for Aetna Insurance. Harrell and his wife were avid competitive dancers.
Harrell continued to receive many honors long after his football career ended. He was named to the Southland Conference All-First Decade team (1964–1973) and to the All-Time ASU Team in 1976. In 1994, he was inducted into the ASU Sports Hall of Honor. In 1996, he became the first inductee into the Arkansas State University Ring of Honor, with his number being retired by ASU in that same year. In 2003, Harrell was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.
Harrell died from a heart attack on June 26, 1994, while practicing for a western dance competition. He is buried in the Augusta Memorial Park in Augusta.
For additional information:
“Calvin Harrell.” Just Sports Stats. https://www.justsportsstats.com/footballstatsindex.php?player_id=harrecal001 (accessed June 26, 2019).
“Calvin F. Harrell Jr.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, June 19, 1994, p. 8B.
“Calvin F. Harrell Jr.” Find-a-Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/123984431/calvin-f.-harrell (accessed June 26, 2019).
“Former A-State All-American Harrell on 2019 College Football Hall of Fame Ballot.” Arkansas State Red Wolves. http://www.astateredwolves.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=7200&ATCLID=211717666 (accessed June 26, 2019).
Jared, George. “ASU’s Harrell Nominated for College Football Hall of Fame.” Talk Business and Politics, July 5, 2018. https://talkbusiness.net/2018/07/asus-harrell-nominated-for-college-football-hall-of-fame/ (accessed June 26, 2019).
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