A walk-on to a starter and eventually earning a spot in his college’s Hall of Fame, undrafted out of college, then signed and cut and signed and cut and well you get the point and now in what may be his final season as a professional football season, this player is the patron saint of perseverance, and who is this player…. Pittsburgh Steelers James Harrison. His story is a reminder to all the players who were not drafted that you can still make it and be a star in the NFL.
James Harrison was considered too short to be an effective linebacker (6’0) and too light for the defensive line (240 lbs.) but he found a niche (eventually) with the Steelers for good in 2004 after their starting linebacker Clark Haggans got injured in training camp. Harrison was on and off the Steelers practice squad and after being cut in 2003 signed with the Baltimore Ravens and sent to their NFL Europe counterpart the Rhein Fire but he was released by the Ravens and signed with the Steelers for the fourth time and this time he stuck.
In the 2004 he was mainly only a special teamer and the next two years he played sporadically and didn’t really take off until the Steelers hired coach Mike Tomlin who cut the fan favorite Joey Porter (salary cap) and named Porter the starter in 2007. Porter is now the Steelers outside linebacker coach. Harrison blossomed when given the chance to start and star making big plays in big games on big stages, none bigger than his 100 yard interception return in Super Bowl XLIII at the end of the first half changing momentum and earning him his second Super Bowl ring with the Steelers.
In August 2013 he signed with the Cincinnati Bengals (when a contract dispute with the Steelers left him angry and hurt) playing in 15 games but not providing the same fire and explosive plays and was released at the end of the season by the Bengals. So in 2014 he came back and announced his retirement from football but in September signed with the Steelers and guess what he is still with them in what will maybe be his last year.
Harrison’s career starts (to this point) are in 171 games he has had 76.5 sacks, 8 forced fumbles, 7 interceptions and 732 tackles. He was names the 2008 AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
James Harrison worked hard, kept working hard and made his hard work pay off. He may not have been the best specimen coming out of college, but he eventually found his place and made it work and that is why he is the patron saint of undersized, undrafted and cut players everywhere.