In this series, we’ll be highlighting a different player from the storied past of the New York Jets. Today, we take a look at return specialist Bruce Harper.
While he never became a full-time starter in the backfield, Harper still made a massive impact for the Jets on special teams, becoming the most prolific return man in franchise history.
An undrafted free agent in 1977 out of Kutztown (PA), Harper made an immediate impact for the Jets, leading the NFL in kick return yardage in each of his first three seasons in the league. He also led the league in all-purpose yards in two of his first four seasons.
Harper spent all seven of his NFL seasons with the Gang Green, and still ranks No. 1 on the team’s all-time list in both kick return yardage (5,407) and punt return yardage (1,784). He appeared in 99 games for the Jets, and proved himself a versatile and valuable weapon on offense, as well. he totaled 1,829 yards and eight touchdowns rushing over his career, and added 220 receptions for 2,409 yards and 12 more scores as a receiver.
Surprisingly, for all the yardage he racked up in the return game, Harper only found the end zone once in his career, on an 82-yard punt return in 1978.
A true sign of his impact on the franchise, Harper’s No. 42 jersey is the one famously worn by Jets super-fan Fireman Ed. He was also named to the Jets’ All-Time Four-Decade team back in 2003, cementing him as a legend in franchise history.
An active community leader, Harper is the president and co-founder of Cool Kids & Heroes, a youth program that serves New York and New Jersey.