PITTSBURGH — Before he terrorized collegiate defenses and became a hall of famer, Major Harris grew up in the Steel City’s Hill District. 

Friday, he was honored in his hometown, as the City of Pittsburgh unveiled a new name for the intersection of Reed Street and Elmore Street: Major Harris Way. 

Harris, who guided the Mountaineers to a perfect regular season and Fiesta Bowl appearance in 1988, hopes the street sign will inspire generations to come. 

“I think it shows them that they can go out and get it done, or do something positive,” Harris said. “You see a lot of kids out here today…I think that’s the biggest thing that can come from this, because young people can look at this and say, ‘I can probably do something like this.’”

Major Harris (WVU visor) poses for a photo with his mother, Sandy, and Pittsburgh mayor Ed Gainey. (Photo by Jamie Green.)

The former WVU quarterback’s football resume speaks for itself. He set what was then the school record with 7,334 total yards in his career, becoming one of just two quarterbacks in Division I history to pass for more than 5,000 yards and rush for more than 2,000 yards. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2009 and had his iconic No. 9 retired by WVU last November. 

But according to Pittsburgh mayor Ed Gainey, who also has ties to the Hill District, there’s more to this gesture than honoring athletic achievement. It’s about amplifying that legacy in a historically Black neighborhood, and ensuring Harris’ accomplishments are always celebrated. 

“A lot of times, particularly in the African American community, our heroes don’t get recognized. We don’t tell our young people why our heroes are so great. We don’t talk about it,” Gainey said. “But to make this a diverse city, to make integration our creation on why we can move this city forward, the stories of Major Harris have to be told.” 

Harris said he’s “proud” to have a street renamed in his honor, but he never expected that it would happen. 

“Growing up, there’s things you never expect. Even going to college, playing on TV and different things like that, and then when you accomplish that, and you look back on it, you can appreciate it even more,” Harris said. “But when you get older, and something like this happens, it kind of hits you on the spot, so basically, you’ve got to take it as it comes.”

Move than 100 people attended the street re-naming, including Pittsburgh area leaders, some of Harris’ former WVU teammates, former Mountaineer mascot Ben White and Harris’ mother, Sandy.

“It brings back the days when I playing own at West Virginia,” Harris said. “She was at all the games and stuff like that.” 

When asked what it means to have a West Virginia athlete honored in such a way in Pittsburgh, Harris simply laughed, but he did say that he’s eagerly awaiting the return of the Backyard Brawl. 

“[The rivalry] means everything,” Harris said. Growing up here, at the time, Pitt Stadium was a 10-minute walk from here. It meant everything.”