Now that he has achieved a small measure of stardom, Clarence Harmon is having to deal with two nagging questions:
How does he pronounce the name of his home town, Kosciusko, Miss.?
And why isn't he playing more as a Redskin running back?
Harmon has answers to both inquiries memorized.
"The town is named after a Polish genera," he says. "You say it 'Ka-Z-S-Ko.'"
And: "People always want to know why I don't play more, and I tell them, I really don't worry about it. I truthfully can say I enjoy what I am doing now. I don't have any complaints. And I mean it."
When Coach Jack Pardee first thought of assembling a team of unassuming, happy-to-contribute players, he must have had Harmon in mind as the prototype.
No athlete on the squad has accepted his position better than Harmon, a low-key, delightfully humorous man who just feels fortunate the Redskins pay him to play a game he loves.
He goes about his job as special teams player and third-down receiver-runner in the same manner a quality secretary might type a letter: unemotionally, thoroughly, excellently.
Harmon is neither big enough nor quick enough to catch anyone's attention on the field, yet he constantly turns heads anyway. When he touches the ball, something good usually happens for the Redskins.
And never has that been more obvious than this season, when Harmon and his backfield mate, Buddy Hardeman, have turned into a dynamic third-down duo.
They have become so dangerous in that situation that Pardee extended their playing time last week in Cleveland. He benched starters Benny Malone and John Riggins and went with the Two H's in the fourth period.
It was a stroke of genius. The two performed admirably on a horrible field and Harmon wound up the hero when he caught Joe Theismann's 14-yard pass with 27 seconds left to win the game.
In all, Harmon is Washington's fourth best rusher (113 yards on 23 carries), third best receiver (12 catches, 144 yards), third best kickoff returner (13-yard average) and is third in scoring (12 points).
Not bad for someone who earned a tryout with the Redskins by showing an ability to do everything in football but catch one.
"At Mississippi State, we ran a wishbone and I'd be lucky to ever have a ball thrown at me," Harmon said.
"I could run and I could block, but my first year here, whenever I'd drop a pass, George Allen would come running over to me and tell me to work on my hands.
I followed his advice. I catch a lot of balls in the offseason and it's helped. Now I consider myself a decent receiver."
And why does he always seem to be doing something right for Washington?
"I guess because of the situations I'm in. On third down, if you catch a ball, it usually means a first down, that's the reason you throw it in the first place."
Harmon can be likened to the basketball Bullets' Mitch Kupchak. Pardee feels more secure having a Harmon on the sideline, ready to be thrust into action at timely moments. And, besides, who can he really replace in the starting lineup?
Riggins is a bona fide pro fullback, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher and a good receiver. Hardeman is playing so well that he has earned first shot at any extra playing time at Malone's halfback spot.
"I don't stay up nights wondering what I'm doing," Harmon said. "Maybe some people are meant to be starters and some are meant to be reserves. "I'm not saying that fits me but, for now, I can accept it. The way they are playing everyone, if they thought I should start, they'd be starting me."
Back home in Kosciusko, Harmon could be a threat to replace that Polish general as town hero.
"You go anywhere in Mississippi and mention Kosciusko and people will start running the other way," Harmon said. "We play football in Kosciusko."
At least the Harmon family plays football, and that means Kosciusko High benefits. Clarence Harmon put the school, on the gridiron map, then brothers Larry (Mississippi Valley) and Michael (freshman at Mississippi) kept it there.
Despite the presence of five sisters and another brother, that's the end of the football-playing Harmons.
"We did all we could," Harmon said with a grin. "They are on their own."
The Harmons played many sports, but football was Clarence's favorite. He thought he might land a big-school football scholarship until he was hurt his senior year in high school and wound up attending a junior college.
Then Mississippi State, just up the road from mid-state Kosciusko, beckoned before his junior season and he became part of a shuttle system of wishbone running backs.
"When you carry the ball only seven or eight times a game, you don't have a chance to show the pro scouts much," Harmon said. "I never expected to be drafted and I wasn't. And I really never expected to get a tryout with a team."
But the Redskins, short of draft choices during the Allen era, had to take chances on athletes with potential, so they invited the 5-foot-11, 185-pound (now 205) Harmon to training camp.
Harmon says he was the "17th of 17 running backs" in that 1977 camp. But he proved to be an excellent special teams player -- a sure way to catch Allen's eye -- and he survived the final cut, eventually startly nine games when Riggins was injured.
He has grown in importance to the team ever since, but as long as he remains a backup, he cannot shake a sense of insecurity. That is one reason he is studying for his master's in physical education.
"I play it year by year," he said. "I come to camp just hoping to make the team. One day I want to get into coaching, probably at the high school level. I enjoy working with young people."
That coaching job most likely will be at Kosciusko, where he was born almost 24 years ago and where he still lives, "to get away from the cold up here and to do a lot of hunting and fishing."
His wife, Allie Mae, is in Kosciusko now, expecting their second child this month.
"I told her to have the baby early in the week," Harmon said, laughing."But if she has it on Sunday, I told her to call the stadium and have them announce it on the PA system."
And would he get emotional about that news?
"When we win the Super Bowl, that's when everyone will see Clarence Harmon go crazy," he said. "I'm saving it until then. Then it will all come out."
Jean Fugett worked out lightly yesterday, his first drills since hurting a knee two games ago . . . Joe Lavender (sprained knee) watched from the sidelines, but Pardee said he expected the cornerback to practice today . . . Eagle quarterback Ron Jaworski is still hobbling with a sprained ankle but Pardee and the Redskins are sure he will play Sunday.