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The Next Generation of You: Jackie Harris

Author Jim Gehman
Date Published Dec 14, 2023

In a league where the average length of a player’s career is less than four years, Jackie Harris, a tight end with Green Bay, Tampa Bay, Tennessee and Dallas, was able to play in the NFL for a remarkable 12 seasons.


“A whole lot of praying and just trying to take care of yourself,” Harris said. “It’s important for every professional athlete to just try to maintain best possible conditioning. But I think even with that, because all the guys, they take care of themselves, you just have to be fortunate to stay away from the serious injuries. And I was fortunate in that regard.”

With 393 career receptions for 4,410 yards and 25 touchdowns, Harris helped reached the playoffs three times with three different teams, and was Tennessee’s leading receiver in Super Bowl XXXIV.

A Loving Push for Degree #1

Well respected around the league, Harris played for five head coaches: Mike Holmgren, Sam Wyche, Tony Dungy, Jeff Fisher and Dave Campo. All fine men, but there was only one person who had his ear that whole time and is why he hit the books at the University of Arkansas in his hometown of Pine Bluff after retiring from the NFL in 2002 – his mom.

“Back then we traveled more to team facilities (prior to the NFL Draft) as opposed to the way things are now. She was pretty disappointed that that final semester (at the University of Louisiana Monroe) that I dropped out,” Harris said.

“My mom stayed on me the whole time and finally, after I retired, she says. ‘Okay, you don’t have any more excuses.’ So that’s what prompted me to go back (at 36 years old) and complete my undergraduate degree (in criminal justice).”

Sights Set on Degree #2

With one degree in hand, Harris then turned his attention toward a second one, a law degree from the University of Arkansas-Little Rock.

“It was always a desire,” Harris said. “Certainly while playing, that just wasn’t in my mind as a viable option. And so at the point that I did finish, I said, ‘Hey, I’m here now.’ That was something that I always wanted to pursue, and it just seemed like the right time for me.

“There were a couple of law schools here, one close enough where I didn’t have to relocate, and so it just seemed like the ideal opportunity for me to pursue that particular career.”

Was the pride Harris experienced when he passed the bar exam comparable to moments he had throughout his playing career?

“I think it was kind of the same as being drafted,” Harris laughed. “It was the relief that you put in so much hard work through the years playing football and then you’re fortunate enough to be drafted. It’s such a great feeling. I equate that to passing the bar exam.

“And it’s like going through training camp all over again when you go through those bar prep courses. And then when you finally pass it, it’s like one of those hallelujah kind of moments.”

Jackie Harris(1)
Circuit Judge-elect Jackie Harris gives the keynote address during the Boys & Girls Club of Jefferson County Annual Heroes Dinner on Thursday at First United Methodist Church in Pine Bluff. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell) | Arkansas Democrat Gazette

TE to JD: Player to Partner to Judge

A partner at McKissic & Associates in Pine Bluff, AR, since 2008, Harris’ primary areas of focus is in probate and estate work. As well as family law.

“When people come to see an attorney, they have some difficult challenges that they’re facing,” Harris said. “And being able to help them through those challenges is what really motivated me to get into the practice of law. People always talk about giving back, but I wanted to be able to do it in a way that I saw as really being significant.

“I think at the end of the day, I’ve been fortunate enough to be blessed to live a life that many dream of, and I don’t feel like it’s taken me from my roots. I’ve been back here in my hometown and really work with people.”

An NFL player, an attorney, and in January, Harris will embark on a third career when he becomes a judge.

“Back in May of 2022, I was a candidate for Circuit Court Judge, and was very fortunate enough to win that election,” Harris said. “I will be taking the bench as a Circuit Court Judge here in the state of Arkansas. It’s the 11th West Judicial District, and includes Jefferson and Lincoln Counties.”

Jackie has served in his role of Circuit Court Judge for the State of Arkansas since January 2023.

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