Gamblers linebacker Willie Harper
was one of the best defensive players ever to suit up for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Harper was a one-man wrecking crew
against LSU in the 1971 Orange Bowl, helping Nebraska win its first National Championship. He went on to assist the Huskers
with winning their second-straight national title the next year, then ended his college career by starring for a
Nebraska team that would win its third-straight Orange Bowl in early 1973. During his four year stint with Nebraska, Harper
was awarded countless honors and awards, including multipe All-Americans and outstanding lineman awards.
Chosen in the second
round of the 1973 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers, Willie was converted to the linebacker position, where he was a mainstay
from 1973 through the end of the 1983 season. He played a key role in the 49ers' first Super Bowl victory in 1982 with a decisive
fumble recovery and a solid overall defensive performance. He jumped to the USFL in 1984 by signing with the New
Jersey Generals, and finished his pro playing career with the Houston Gamblers in 1985.
Here at Houston-Gamblers.com, we are fortunate
to own both a home and away jersey worn by Mr. Harper. This black example is the "home" jersey. It exhibits very light evidence of usage,
as Harper was used primarily as a reserve linebacker during his year with the Gamblers.
All Gamblers jerseys were provided
by Russell Athletic, and they were shipped "blank" to the team -- the only graphics pre-screened
by Russell were the stripes on the sleeves. All the numbers and names were added locally by Oshman's Sporting Goods. Assistant
Equipment Manager Albert Veytia would also usually drive the jerseys to the local Oshman's to be repaired when needed.
A closeup view of the left sleeve. Many
Gamblers linebacker and lineman shirts feature spandex sides, as well as a series of grommets (holes), located under
the sleeves, that can be laced with string to tighten the sleeves to the upper arms and pads of the player. This shirt
is no exception.
A view of the Russell size tag and crotchpiece
buttons. Gamblers jerseys only have one tag, which is located on the front left bottom tail. A few Gamblers shirts
have a small "100% NYLON" flag extending from the bottom of the Russell tag. A "crotchpiece" is a
long strip of fabric, with button holes on the end, that hangs from the rear bottom of a jersey. To use, it is placed
between the player's legs and attached to the front of the jersey (by using three of six buttons that are sewn on the
bottom front). A crotchpiece prevents a jersey from coming untucked during game play.
Here's how the jersey looks while lying
flat, with the crotchpiece extended.
Gamblers jerseys are typical of the clean,
simple, contrasting look that was popular among sports teams in the 1980s. Most football teams abandoned sleeve
stripes by the mid 1990s, as jersey sleeves became shorter and shorter (many lineman jerseys today are basically sleeveless). Though
the sleeves and grommets of this Gamblers shirt are now obsolete, we have to smile every time we see the nifty
Gamblers "old school" design.
Back to the Game Used Museum Menu
View Willie Harpers' Biography Page
View a Willie Harper Game Used White Jersey