American Football Database
Alvin Harper
Date of birth: (1967-07-06) July 6, 1967 (age 54)
Place of birth: Lake Wales, Florida
Career information
Position(s): Wide receiver
College: Tennessee
NFL Draft: 1991 / Round: 1 / Pick: 12
 As player:
1991-1994, 1999
Dallas Cowboys
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Washington Redskins
New Orleans Saints
Memphis Maniax
Playing stats at

Alvin Craig Harper (born July 6, 1967 in Lake Wales, Florida) is a former American football player in the National Football League. In the 1991 NFL Draft selected wide receiver Harper with the twelfth pick in the first round.

Harper would play in Dallas for four years as the Cowboys won Super Bowl XXVII and Super Bowl XXVIII.

Early years

At Frostproof High School, Harper was a standout football player, earning USA Today High School All-American honors as a senior in 1986. He also excelled in track and field, where he at one time held the Florida High School high jump record and won two state Class A high jumping titles, as well as basketball where he averaged 23 points and 10 rebounds per game.

He went onto the University of Tennessee, where he practiced football and track and field.

He continued to excel in track and field, capturing the 1989 SEC Indoor High Jump Championship with a jump of 7-2½. He also anchored the University of Tennessee 4x100 and 4x400 metres relays.

In football he earned All-Southeastern Conference Freshman First Team honors in 1987, and All--Southeastern Conference first team honors in 1990. He was also the MVP of the 1991 Hula Bowl, and finished his NCAA football career with 103 receptions for 1,547 yards and 16 touchdowns, which is a Volunteer career record he holds with Tim McGee.

  • 1987: 15 catches for 247 yards with 1 TD
  • 1988: 37 catches for 487 yards with 5 TD
  • 1989: 13 catches for 246 yards with 2 TD
  • 1990: 37 catches for 567 yards with 8 TD

Professional career

Dallas Cowboys

He was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the first round of the 1991 NFL Draft, in order to find a receiving partner for Michael Irvin. During his rookie year, he caught 20 passes for 326 yards and one touchdown, helping Dallas finish 11-5, its first winning season since 1985.

In 1992, he rushed once for 15 yards and caught 35 passes for 562 yards and four touchdowns. He probably had the signature play of his career during the NFC Championship against the San Francisco 49ers, catching a slant route for 70 yards, setting up the Cowboys on the 10-yard line and sealing the win. He also caught a 45-yard touchdown from quarterback Troy Aikman during the 52-17 victory over the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVII, after which he dunked the ball over the goal post crossbar.

In 1993, Harper established himself as one of the best deep threats in the NFL with a 21.6 yards per catch average, and a total of 36 receptions for 777 yards and five touchdowns. He again had a key play in the NFC Championship against the San Francisco 49ers, with Troy Aikman knocked out of the game with a concussion, Dallas backup quarterback Bernie Kosar connected with Harper for a 42 yard touchdown. That year, Dallas returned to face the Bills in Super Bowl XXVIII during which Aikman completed a 16-yard pass to him to give the Cowboys a first-and-goal at the six early in the fourth quarter. That set up one-yard-run by running back Emmitt Smith and helped seal the Bills fate as Dallas won 30-13.

Harper's best year came in 1994, when he led the league with a 24.9 yards-per-reception average, catching 33 passes for 821 yards and eight touchdowns. However, Dallas failed to three-peat, dropping out of Super Bowl contention with a 28-38 loss to the Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

In 1995, Harper signed a lucrative free agent contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers based on his big play ability and championship experience, and although he had a career high 46 catches his first season in Tampa, he was not able to live up to his free agent billing.

He was released before the start of 1997 season. During his two years in Tampa he was slowed by injuries and played in only 25 games where he caught 65 passes for 922 yards and three touchdowns.

Washington Redskins

In 1997 the Washington Redskins signed him, gambling that he could flourish again after being reunited with Norv Turner, but Harper played in 12 games in which he caught only two passes for 65 yards.

The Redskins released Harper, before the season ended, after he complained about his playing time following Washington's 23-20 loss to the Saint Louis Rams.

New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints claimed the veteran receiver off waivers, but didn't play in any game.

Dallas Cowboys

His final season in the NFL was in 1999 when he returned to play for his former team, the Dallas Cowboys, and played only two games that year.

Harper finished his eight NFL seasons with 191 receptions for 3,473 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also rushed once for 15 yards, completed a pass for 46 yards, and recorded one interception on defense.


In 2001, Harper signed with the Memphis Maniax of the short-lived XFL; he did not finish among the league's top ten receivers in any category.

Coaching career

In 2005, Harper was a volunteer wide receivers coach with NFL Europe team Rhein Fire.