Catch ex-Cowboy players today at Cielo Vista
El Paso Times
They were the glue, the glamour guys ... the Butch and Sundance at that most special of times for the Dallas Cowboys. They were the cornerstones in the transition from Next Year's Champions to America's Team.
Cliff Harris and Charlie Waters were the perfect partners -- outstanding alone, exceptional together.
The inseparable sidekicks from the '70s helped take the Cowboys on that most magical of trips -- from lovable loser smack into the hearts and souls of fans across America. Few cities have been drawn into the love affair and embraced the Cowboys more than El Paso.
Harris and Waters will visit El Paso tonight, conducting a book signing at Dillard's in Cielo Vista Mall. They will have copies of their book "Tales from the Dallas Cowboys" and other Cowboy paraphernalia available to sign. But it will not just be about autographs.
"That's the most fun we have," Harris said. "All the interesting stories people tell us. I've had people tell me they remember us so much because of all the time they spent with their fathers on Sunday afternoons. It's like we are part of their families. They've known us for 25-30 years. It's so unbelievable to be a part of a good thing like that."
And Waters said, "We hear the best stories. We're old enough now, we really appreciate the stories. We never roll our eyes, think we've got something better to do. We love to talk to each and every person who comes out."
El Paso's Cowboys lovers are eagerly looking forward to this chance to meet some real life heroes, two men who meant so much to their team.
"Of course we're excited," said Candy Calderon, president of the Dallas Cowboys Diehard Fan Club of El Paso. "These are special guys. In my opinion, they should have been in the Hall of Fame this time. We're all very excited about this."
Larry Rodriguez, president of the True Blue Cowboy Crew, said, "I remember them playing together all those years. They complemented each other so well. They worked hard together and did it for the team, and you don't see that so much anymore. They excelled, they complemented each other, they stayed on the same team. To do all that is a special accomplishment."
Harris and Waters began their Cowboy careers in 1970 and helped take the Cowboys to five Super Bowls in eight years. Their 1977 team remains one of the best in NFL history. In their prime, Harris was the all-pro free safety and Waters was the all-pro strong safety.
Time slips quietly by, picking up speed like a locomotive. A moment ago, they were starring in Texas Stadium. Today they are 56 years old -- but they continue to work together. Harris and Waters work in Dallas for Energy Transfer, a natural gas company. But they still follow football and they still have plenty of opinions about the game and the men who play it -- yesterday and today.
Waters laughed and said, "We all have an ego. It's very important to have a strong ego in this game, to believe you have the ability to whip the guy in front of you. Too many players today take that ego off the field. You need to leave it on the field. In the '70s, we would figure out a way to get even. If you earholed Terrell Owens when he wasn't looking, he wouldn't do so much of what he does."
Harris agreed: "Inside the game, players are the same. They get paid a lot more money, but they still think the same way, feel the same way. They are bigger, faster, stronger and get paid more. But they still feel the same way. As for the ego part of it that some guys have, well, I've been quoted as telling Darren Woodson I'd help pay his fine if he would knock out Terrell Owens."
These two men, of course, played for the most significant figure in the history of the franchise, the Godfather of the Cowboys, THE MAN ... Tom Landry.
"He was not just a quality coach, but a quality person," Harris said. "We probably didn't recognize at the time that we were playing for a coach that would be revered as one of the greatest coaches in the history of the NFL. He influenced the people we are today -- dramatically."
And Waters said, "He has been the most influential person in my entire life. Coach Landry's drive to be successful haunted us."
Harris and Waters -- brothers in spirit still, Butch and Sundance -- have filled a book with stories of Landry and Bob Lilly and Randy White and Roger Staubach and Drew Pearson and scores of other Cowboys. And now they are eager to meet people and talk about those stories.
Bill Knight may be reached at email@example.com