ShareThis Page

Even keel, high-powered motor lift Harrison

| Sunday, Sept. 9, 2007

Stand beside Steelers right outside linebacker James Harrison and it's easy to understand why all 32 teams passed on him in the NFL draft.

Forget the generous 6-foot listing in the team's media guide. Harrison is 5-10, give or take an inch.

"Too short,'' was the scouts' battle cry regarding Harrison going undrafted. As if that justifies all 32 teams passing on a perfectly good football player.

He is what they call a physical specimen, all 242 evenly-distributed pounds of him. He looks like he's been lifting weights since kindergarten. His upper body ripples with muscles.

Observe Harrison explode to the ball-carrier, wrap up and tackle with the impact of a seven on the richter scale, and you want to place dunce caps on those scouts who overlook the size of a player's heart.

Even the Steelers didn't know what to do with Harrison after signing him as an undrafted free agent in 2002. They released him three times before deciding to keep him.

A few days ago, Harrison stood in front of his locker at the Steelers practice facility and recited why he isn't the least bit miffed about going undrafted.

"I'm where I'm at right now. Whatever path I took to get here, that really doesn't matter,'' Harrison said.

Harrison is asked again, more directly this time, if he uses anger about being overlooked in the draft and then released three times within a year as motivation.

"I don't need to use that as fuel because I'm sure there's thousands of other people out there that went through the same situation or something similar in a different field and perservered,'' Harrison said.

Man-to-man, James. Coming from Kent State, where you had 15 sacks and finished third in the Mid-American Conference's defensive player of the year voting as a senior, you never felt the urge to tell those scouts that you were right and they were wrong?

Harrison has the answer for that: "Of course, early, just the fact that you were an undrafted free agent and after getting cut, what, three times, you finally stick. After that, it was just a point of how much I need to do to try to get a starting position.''

Ironically, Harrison's first NFL start was in 2004 against the Cleveland Browns. He was an emergency replacement for Joey Porter, who was ejected because of a pre-game brawl with running back William Green. Harrison finished with six tackles and a quarterback hurry in the Steelers' 24-10 victory.

Say hello to Porter's permanent replacement. Harrison makes his second career start against the Browns on the road in today's 2007 opener.

Harrison -- a converted Steelers fan who grew up a "die-hard'' Browns fan in nearby Akron -- received acclaim during the 2005 season when he picked up and body-slammed a man who wandered on the field during the Steelers' 41-0 win in Cleveland.

"I felt like he was a threat,'' Harrison said. "He was a Browns fan. He's probably drunk and mad. I didn't know what he was going to do."

There's something about playing in Cleveland that brings out the best in Harrison.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.