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Old 01-05-2009, 07:04 PM   #1
mesaSteeler
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Default Self-Imposed Obstacles Don’t Stop Steelers’ Harrison

January 6, 2009
Self-Imposed Obstacles Don’t Stop Steelers’ Harrison
By SEAN D. HAMILL
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/06/sp...tml?ref=sports

PITTSBURGH — For the two years that James Harrison has started at right outside linebacker for the Steelers, here are the vital statistics: 24 ½ sacks, 199 tackles, 14 forced fumbles (the most in the league in that period). He has also been named to the Pro Bowl twice, won two team Most Valuable Player awards, finished in a tie for fourth place in leaguewide M.V.P. voting and, on Monday, received recognition as the N.F.L. defensive player of the year.

In a professional sport in which the star status of players like quarterback Peyton Manning and running back Reggie Bush seems to have been designated from the time they were in high school, the 30-year-old Harrison has made a stunning rise to prominence as the snarling heart of the N.F.L.’s best defense.

It is not just that he played at a small college, Kent State; or that he was an undrafted free agent; or that he was cut three times by two teams; or that he spent one miserable winter playing in Germany before he started an up-from-nowhere climb five seasons ago to earn a roster spot with the Steelers.

There were barriers — some of them of his own creation, including a couple of brushes with the law — that could have derailed his career at any point, beginning with youth football while growing up in Akron, Ohio, as the youngest of 14 children in a blended family.

Those who have helped him along the way say it is Harrison’s ability to learn life’s hard lessons, and to change as a result, that has meant the difference.

“Before, he’d do things his own way,” said Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter, who helped Harrison when they were both with the Steelers. “But after he’d been cut a couple times, and after he came back from N.F.L. Europe, he changed. He said, ‘I’ll do everything you ask of me.’ He did that and more. He finally got it.”

Harrison’s intense, no-nonsense personality is the same on and off the field, except when he’s playing with his 1-year-old son, James Harrison III. (Nice picture of his son is part of the article. Click the URL for the article if you want to see it. - mesa)

Harrison conceded Porter’s point.

“I had a little maturing to do,” he said in a recent interview. “When I first came to the Steelers, I wouldn’t say I was uncoachable. But if I had an opinion, I wasn’t afraid to say it. And maybe the first few times, maybe I just cut myself the way I dealt with certain situations.”

Opposing coaches, Pro Bowl left tackles, star running backs and even a wayward Cleveland Browns fan have all wondered what happened after facing Harrison.

“He’s not a guy where you’re going to say, ‘This is what I can do to beat him,’ because he’s good at everything,” said Joe Thomas, the Cleveland Browns’ 6-foot-6, 305-pound Pro Bowl left tackle. Thomas has played against the 6-foot, 242-pound Harrison three times the past two years.

“He’s the type of guy who can bull rush you right over, or he can slip right around you before you even know it,” Thomas said. “Also, he’s got a nonstop motor. He just plays hard every play, to the whistle the whole game.”

Harrison, a Browns fan until the former version of the franchise moved to Baltimore, is infamous in Cleveland for what has become known as the Slam. During a game in 2005, a drunken Browns fan ran onto the field and meandered toward the Steelers’ bench before Harrison lifted him off the ground like a bag of groceries, slammed him down and held him for security.

“He was getting closer to our sideline, and I didn’t know what he was going to do and I wasn’t going to wait to find out,” Harrison said.

Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin, who was coaching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ secondary at the time, said the incident made him think, “That’s a guy that kind of plays the game on edge.” Tomlin added: “As a coach, you like guys like that. It was a snapshot of what he was capable of that stands out in my mind.”

The three games that Harrison started that season in place of linebacker Clark Haggans offered a hint of what was to come.

Dick LeBeau, the Steelers’ longtime defensive coordinator, said: “I kind of thought we were on the right track when one of the head coaches came up to me after a game that year and said: ‘Where did you get that No. 92? Because we saw he would be playing, and we kind of built our attack around him and he killed us.’ ”

And to think Harrison’s mother didn’t want him to play football.

“I didn’t want my son getting hurt running around on that field,” said Mildred Harrison, whose tell-it-like-it-is personality mirrors her youngest son’s. “And I didn’t want him wasting his time hoping for a pro career. As everyone tells me now, I was wrong.”

She might have won the argument if it wasn’t for her son’s lifelong best friend, David Walker, who lived across the street.

“I had to go and help convince his mom to let him sign up,” said Walker, 30, an engineer by training who now sells automation systems and who played defensive back at Ohio University. “We went together and begged her.”

Youth football would prove to be the first of several lessons for Harrison.

“The thing was, if I didn’t go to practice, the coaches were ready to cut him,” his father, James Harrison Sr., said. He said he eventually learned that his son didn’t play hard when he wasn’t there to watch. “So I tried to make all the practices.”

It was during those early practices, Harrison said, that his father gave him the ethos with which he still plays: “He told me when I started playing pee-wee ball, ‘I don’t care if you’re in a game or in practice — when you’re inside them lines, you play everybody as if they’re playing against you, hit everybody as if they’re talking about your momma.’ ”

Then, his senior year in 1998 at Coventry High School in the Akron area, he was charged with assault and later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge for shooting a BB gun in the locker room. It was an incident that he and others said was blown out of proportion but that cost him the interest of major colleges like Ohio State, Notre Dame and Nebraska.

He ended up at nearby Kent State, with his parents paying his way for a year. They almost pulled him out as he struggled to lift his grades and become eligible for the scholarship that awaited him.

Walker said losing the interest of big programs and ending up at Kent State still affects Harrison. “He made some changes after that,” Walker said. “James is the type of person who will say: ‘I will prove you wrong. I deserve to be here.’ ”

Harrison first joined the Steelers as a free agent in 2002, when his agent at the time persuaded the team to take him in a package deal with a cornerback he also represented. He showed up late to rookie camp, then made it clear he thought he knew it all, even when he made mistakes.

“He liked football,” said his first linebacker coach with the Steelers, Mike Archer, now the defensive coordinator at North Carolina State. “But he did not like, in my opinion, the structure of football.”

Even recently, Harrison has stumbled. In March, he was charged with assault in an incident with the mother of his son. The charges were dropped after Harrison accepted responsibility for the incident and took anger management courses.

Harrison has come to appreciate football’s order. He has blossomed within in it partly because he has retained both the lessons learned and the perceived slights.

“Because of what he has gone through, I think he plays with a chip on his shoulder,” said the former Steelers coach Bill Cowher, who cut Harrison twice before finally adding him to the roster in 2004. “It’s just a great story. And it’s a testament to James. He’s the one who traveled this road.”
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Old 01-05-2009, 07:56 PM   #2
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Default Re: Self-Imposed Obstacles Don’t Stop Steelers’ Harrison



What a sweet pic of father and son I think this is the first time I've ever seen him SMILE! lol

...and then he puts his game face on and goes to work!

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Old 01-05-2009, 10:16 PM   #3
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Default Re: Self-Imposed Obstacles Don’t Stop Steelers’ Harrison

I didnt realize he could smile but great story! i am very happy for him for all he has overcome!!
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Old 01-05-2009, 10:37 PM   #4
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Default Re: Self-Imposed Obstacles Don’t Stop Steelers’ Harrison

The way he plays reminds me so much of Lloyd. Just the way he comes off the corner and can strip the ball from the qb.
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Old 01-05-2009, 11:01 PM   #5
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Default Re: Self-Imposed Obstacles Don’t Stop Steelers’ Harrison

James Harrison to me, is a force to be reckoned with. he is one of the most dominant players i can remember in recent years. i'm not just saying that to be biased, but of all teams on the league in the last few years, he is the first one that comes to my mind when i hear the word "dominance." ever since Porter left and Harrison slipped into his spot, he's been nothing but a behemoth in that position.

people say he has an attitude problem and i can see where that comes from. but it's his gameface and his persona. i'm sure he's a softy and a sweetheart outside of the gridiron.

ask my buddy SteelCityKingVP...he used to wash his windows during the summer. for real...no lie...ask him. haha!
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Old 01-05-2009, 11:14 PM   #6
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Default Re: Self-Imposed Obstacles Don’t Stop Steelers’ Harrison

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Originally Posted by SteelCityKing View Post
James Harrison to me, is a force to be reckoned with. he is one of the most dominant players i can remember in recent years. i'm not just saying that to be biased, but of all teams on the league in the last few years, he is the first one that comes to my mind when i hear the word "dominance." ever since Porter left and Harrison slipped into his spot, he's been nothing but a behemoth in that position.

people say he has an attitude problem and i can see where that comes from. but it's his gameface and his persona. i'm sure he's a softy and a sweetheart outside of the gridiron.

ask my buddy SteelCityKingVP...he used to wash his windows during the summer. for real...no lie...ask him. haha!
you missed a spot time for a body slam he looks like a big fuzzy bear when he is with his son. But as a father i know how kids can make you just melt and become a fuzzy wuzzy bear.
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Old 01-05-2009, 11:36 PM   #7
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Default Re: Self-Imposed Obstacles Don’t Stop Steelers’ Harrison

HAHA! my buddy J would probably die by wet willy if it was at the hands of James Harrison! haha!

J says he lives in a housing project in Wexford. i believe him.

nothing makes a man softer than their own seed. i wouldn't know, but i have nieces and nephews. they aren't even my kids and i get the same reaction that James does. =)
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Old 01-06-2009, 01:24 AM   #8
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Default Re: Self-Imposed Obstacles Don’t Stop Steelers’ Harrison

But you just know that when Momma aint around, Harrison is quietly teaching his son how to bullrush the family dog in preperation for playing against the Cleveland Browns.
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Old 01-06-2009, 01:28 AM   #9
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But you just know that when Momma aint around, Harrison is quietly teaching his son how to bullrush the family dog in preperation for playing against the Cleveland Browns.
i don't think the Harrisons own dogs...he probably taught his kid how to eat them! HAHA!

he's a cute kid though.
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Old 01-06-2009, 07:06 AM   #10
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Default Re: Self-Imposed Obstacles Don’t Stop Steelers’ Harrison

That is a great article on James Harrison and thanks for sharing Mesa. Maybe James Harrison III will be playing OLB for us someday
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