Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington


More on Arlingtonian athletes who turned pro, plus a football celebrity interview.

Turns out Wakefield and O’Connell High School grads were shorted on my earlier football roster. Thanks to encyclopedic reader Greg Paspatis, I can now point to two famous Warrior heroes: running back Tom Michel, who was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in 1964, and Bill Darnall, a wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins in 1968.

O’Connell produced offensive lineman Bob Asher, who blocked for the Dallas Cowboys in the early 1970s; tight end Mark Wheeler, who caught passes for the Detroit Lions in 1987; and running back Eric Metcalf, who scampered for the Cleveland Browns in the early 1990s. More recently, the Knights sent up Terrence Wilkins, a wide receiver for the Indianapolis Colts in late 1990s, and tight end Casey Crawford, who ran routes for the Tampa Bay Bucs in the early 2000s.

Heralded Washington-Lee gave the National Football League ’65 graduate John Leypoldt, a placekicker for the Buffalo Bills and others in the 1970s, and offensive tackle Brian Blados, ’80, who wore the Cincinnati Bengals’ uniform from 1984-1991.

More prominent among Generals’ stars was Reggie Harrison ’69, a running back and special teams player for the Pittsburgh Steelers who, memorably in Superbowl 10 in 1976, blocked a 4th-quarter punt, setting up a victory over the Cowboys.

Reached in Woodbridge, Va., where he lives with third wife on an NFL disability pension, Harrison confirmed what I had long heard, that he has converted to Islam and changed his name to Kamal Ali Salaam-El. The name “Reggie,” however, is still fine, he told me, for those who knew him back in the day.

Though he has performed on national television with some of football’s greatest, Harrison retains many memories in common with any veteran of Arlington youth sports. In Little League football, he played for the old Cherner-Ford Black Knights and in other sports under coach Johnny Lange, the longtime Arlington plumbing supplies vendor.

At Stratford Junior High (now site of H-B Woodlawn school), Harrison learned fundamentals from Dick Mitchell. When he moved to W-L, he worked under coach and, later, athletic director John Youngblood, all men for whom Harrison “still has all the respect in the world.”

Perhaps his Arlington high-water mark came during senior year when he scored six touchdowns in a 46-6 Thanksgiving Day romp over George Washington High School, the last of the Old Oaken Bucket games that dated back to the 1930s.

Teammates Harrison looked up to at W-L include football and basketball star Tyrone Epperson, W-L ’67, the school’s best all-around athlete, followed by Jerome Green, “the most aggressive running back I’d ever seen in my life,” Harrison says, with a close third ranking going to Clayton Deskins. “I’m not worthy of carrying these guys’ cleats,” Harrison said. He also recalls (fondly) contemporary stars from arch-rival Yorktown during the 1968 season: Bill Carter, Bernie Kirchner and Milt Drewer.

Harrison insisted that as a boy he was present at the much-shrouded creation of the annual Turkey Bowl tackle football game held in Halls Hill every Thanksgiving since the early 1960s. He regularly visits Arlington, though a grandson plays in Vienna.

Having endured two back surgeries, knee problems and memory loss, Harrison says at times he can’t recall his name. But he’s never forgotten his Arlington glories. 


Charlie Clark may be e-mailed at cclarkjedd@aol.com