Okay- John took a lot of work to track down, because John Miller is a pretty common name. Eventually using the power of Google, cross referenced with the data off of Miller’s 3 cards, I was able to locate leads off of a networking site and sent these cards out. John was kind enough to respond, personalizing these cards, including a small note, and his business card. John apparently still keeps in touch with many of his Birmingham Fire from his days in the WLAF. His son carries on his legacy playing at John’s Alma Mater, Michigan State.
At the time of his departure from EKU (Eastern Kentucky University) fireplug Elroy Harris was the All-time leading rusher in school history with 4,555 yards in 3 years, a whopping 5.9 yards per carry, and scored an Ohio Valley Conference Record 58 career total touchdowns. Among Elroy’s accolades was being named the Conference player of the year in 1988 after accumulating 1,543 yards, which led all Division I-AA schools.
Elroy was a 3rd round pick of the Seattle Seahawks in the jam packed 1989 NFL super draft. Looking for a change of pace in the backfield the Seahawks were stuffed with talent at RB with guys like Curt Warner, John L. Williams, James Jones, Derrick Fenner, and Kevin Harmon. Thankfully Chuck Knox and his infamous ‘Ground Chuck’ offense required so many backs to share the load. Elroy did what it took to make the roster and was utilized primarily on special teams. As a returnman he made appearances in 14 games for Seattle, returning 18 kicks for 334 yards.
Elroy was not retained for the 1990 season, but with the WLAF on the horizon, he made an excellent candidate for the league. Originally a draft pick of the Montreal Machine, Harris had a speedy debut against the Birmingham Fire. Elroy managed to squeeze out 250 yards and 2 TDs, but found himself cut after Week 4. It’s always been a mystery to me as to why it happened, but regardless, the Machine were content with Ricky Johnson taking the lionshare of the workload to go along with Broderick Sargent.
Elroy did not go unemployed for long. He quickly was picked up by a familiar foe- the Birmingham Fire, whose coach, Chan Gailey is a mastermind (even today) of squeezing the most out of players that he can in his offensive systems. Harris stepped into the lineup and contributed another 290 yards and a TD, finishing 4th in the league in rushing, and helping the Fire make the playoffs.
Elroy returned to the Birmingham Fire for the 1992 season, and put up a respectable 470 yards on the ground and 5 TDs, sharing the backfield with Jim Bell as the Fire returned to the playoffs.
Why looking for Elroy Harris for 7 years sticks out in my mind is because he has a card in each set that’s very nice looking. I thought that finding him was going to be much easier than this, but who would’ve thought there were hundreds of Elroy Harris’s across the United States? It took a bit of extra effort cross referencing cards and public data to finally track down the elusive Fire runningback. While I just threw a prayer to the wind, I had a gnawing feeling that this address was the one. I was just surprised to get a response so quickly, and a nice note to boot. Elroy is currently a head mechanic and a coach at his local high school. Apparently he gets little fanmail, as he was really happy to receive this treat letter from me and wished my father and me all the best.
NFL 14/0 RUSH 8 YDS 23 AVG 2.9 TD 0 LG 8
REC 3 YDS 26 AVG 8.7 TD 0 LG 11
KR 18 YDS 334 AVG 18.6 TD 0 LG 25
WLAF RUSH 271 YDS 1010 AVG 3.7 TD 8 LG 41
REC 17 YDS 83 AVG 4.9 TD 1 LG 16
Paul McGowan led all Florida State defenders in tackles for 3 straight seasons from 1984-1987. In his Senior season he was a First Team All-American as he made 150 tackles including 13 for losses, and won the Butkus Award as the nation’s preeminent linebacker, however he waited until the 9th round to hear his name called by the Minnesota Vikings. A final cut in the preseason, McGowan joined the Browns but was also cut as well. At 6’0″, 222, many teams felt he was undersized and slow for the position, but the numbers said otherwise.
Paul was signed by the Ottawa Roughriders of the CFL in 1989 and made 42 tackles, and ended up being cut early in 1990. He was drafted by the Birmingham Fire in the first round of the WLAF’s linebacker draft in 1991, and was a force to be reckoned with in the team’s 3-4 alignment. The team’s tenacious defense led the Fire into the playoffs, and McGowan was charged with leading the linebacker corps with 59 solo tackles and 3 fumble recoveries. Head coach Chan Gailey called McGowan a ‘glue guy’; Basically, a player who makes sure that every player is lined up right and ready. Equally impressive linebacker teammate John Brantley, however won the WLAF Defensive MVP award. McGowan returned in 1992, and so did the Fire to the playoffs, losing again to Barcelona in the first round. Paul expressed interest in returning to the Fire for the 1993 season, however the WLAF reorganized shortly there after.
Paul joined the Orlando Predators of the AFL in 1993. As an ironman league at the time McGowan got to play both sides of the ball in the league’s traditional LB-FB switch off. He’d play for the team through 1997 when he decided to go into firefighting instead. In 1998 Paul was inducted into the Predators Ring of Honor and at the time of his abrupt retirement was the team’s career leader in sacks. In 2010, McGowan was ranked in a poll as the 11th greatest Florida State player of all time.
WLAF Tac N/a Sac 1.0 Fum N/a
Int 3 Yds 29 Avg 9.7 Td 0 Lg 12
AFL LB Tac 97 Ast 39 Sac 17 Fum 6
Int 0 Yds 0 Avg -.- Td 0 Lg -.-
FB Rush 139 Yds 555 Avg Td 11
Rec 25 Yds 227 Avg Td 2