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#81 Willie Harper
Position: Defensive End
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 208
Year: Senior
City/State: Toledo, Ohio

         Drafted in 2nd Round by the San Francisco 49ers

         1972 Washington D.C. Pigskin Club Defensive Player of the Year

         1972 First-Team All-American (AFC-Kodak, AP, UPI, Walter Camp, NEA, Sporting News, Time Magazine)

         1972 First-Team All-Big 8 (AP, UPI)

         1971 First-Team All-American (UPI, Football News, Captains)

         1971 Second-Team All-American (AP)

         1971 First-Team All-Big 8 (AP, UPI)

         1970 Honorable Mention All-American

         1970 First-Team Sophomore All-American ( Football News)

         1970 Big 8 Conference Sophomore Lineman-of-the-Year

         1970 Orange Bowl Outstanding Lineman


1972 (Senior)

Harper repeated as a First-Team All-America selection in ’72. Harper also repeated as a First-Team All-Big 8 performer and was selected as Washington D.C. Pigskin Club Defensive Player-of-the-Year. In his career Harper totaled 41 tackles behind the line of scrimmage for a whopping 268 yards lost.


Harper was once again on the top of the list for tackles for loss for the Husker defense. As a senior he pulled in nine tackles for loss, tying him for first on the team with Monte Johnson. Harper also had 54 total tackles, 27 both unassisted and assisted.


The Huskers 32-game win streak came to a halt in the first game of the year against UCLA as the Huskers lost on a late field goal 20-17. The defense stayed strong though as two games later against Army the Blackshirt held Army to minus 12 yards rushing in a 77-7 win. The Blackshirts would then post four straight shutouts (Minnesota, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma State), the first time that had happened since 1937.


Harper finished up his career in dominate fashion as the Huskers defeated Notre Dame 40-6 in the 1973 Orange Bowl. The Blackshirts would hold the Irish to 207 total yards on the day and not allow a score until there was 1:09 left in the fourth quarter.


1971 (Junior)

Followed up a phenomenal sophomore season by earning First-Team All-America honors from UPI, Football News and Captains and also Second-Team All-America honors from the AP. Harper was also an unanimous First-Team All-Big 8 performer.

Harper would up with 72 total tackles on the year, 38 unassisted. Harper’s impressive 20 tackles for loss were first on the team and nine more then next in line Bill Janssen. Harper’s 20 tackles behind the line accounted for 100 total yards in losses for the opposition.

Harper and the rest of the defense were tough the whole season, only giving up 27 points in the first six games of the year. On the year the defense would post three shutouts against Missouri, Kansas and Iowa State.

In the highly built up “Game of the Century” against Oklahoma the Blackshirts got the job done when it needed to be. The defense stopped a late Oklahoma drive to preserve a 35-31 win, which was Nebraska’s 30th straight game without a defeat. On the day the Blackshirts held Oklahoma rusher Greg Pruitt to only 53 yards rushing.


After beating Hawaii, the Huskers carried over momentum from the “Game of the Century” to defeat No. 2 ranked Alabama in the Orange Bowl 38-6. Harper had six unassisted tackles to help the defense propel the Huskers to their second-straight National Championship.

 

1970 (Sophomore)
Shifted to defensive end in 1970 and started his rise to national stardom as Harper was a First-Team Sophomore All-American, Big 8 Sophomore Lineman-of-the-Year and the Outstanding Lineman Award winner of the 1971 Orange Bowl. Harper’s performance in the Orange Bowl helped propel the Huskers to a 17-12 win over LSU and the Husker’s first National Championship.

Harper’s 12 tackles for loss tied him for second on the team with Larry Jacobsen and only they only trailed team leader Ed Periard by three tackles. However, Harper’s 110 yards in losses (9.2 yards lost per tackle) led the team and was 17 more yards then second placed Jacobsen.

1969 (Freshman)
Starred as a quick, tough, aggressive middle guard for the 1969 freshman team.


Before Nebraska (J. W. Scott High (Toledo, Ohio))
All-City and All-State for Coach Bill “Thunder” Thornton who was a former Nebraska All-Big 8 fullback and was a defensive end coach while Harper was at Nebraska.

 

Personal
Elementary Education in Teachers College. Mother is Mrs. Florine Richardson
 

 

Tackles

.

Fum.

.

.

.

Year

UT

AT

TT

TFL

R

BK

PBU

PI

1970

28

28

56

12-110

2

0

3

0

1971

38

34

72

20-100

1

0

2

3

1972

27

27

54

9-58

1

0

0

0

Totals

93

89

182

41-268

4

0

5

0