On the critical play between the Chiefs and Steelers in the AFC Divisional playoff games, Chiefs fans were shocked when tackle Eric Fisher was called for holding on the two-point conversion attempt that would ultimately determine the game. What was more shocking, however, was that Fisher, the first overall pick of the 2013 NFL Draft, had his arms wrapped around a player a full 12 years his senior.
That man was James Harrison. He’s been a beast ever since he signed in Pittsburgh as an undrafted free agent in 2002, and he’s still chasing quarterbacks 13 years later. He’s a five-time Pro Bowl selection, two-time All-Pro selection, and in his possession are two Super Bowl rings.
Yet Harrison stepped away after the 2013 season, his first away from Pittsburgh. In a statement posted on Facebook, Harrison announced he would be stepping away from the game:
“I have made the difficult decision to retire as of today. My love for my family and the need to be there for them outweighs my desire to play the game. I have missed too many experiences with them because I devoted SO much time to my career. My love for the game isn’t strong enough to make up for missing one more birthday or first day of school. I am retiring as a man who is truly grateful for all of his blessings. I am sincerely thankful to the people who have supported me over the years, first and foremost my family, the Rooney family and my Steeler family, also Mr. Brown, the Bengals organization and fans, and last but FAR from least, Steeler Nation. Thank you.”
As heartfelt as it was, it didn’t last long. When the Steelers lost two young linebackers early in the 2014 season, they made a desperation call to Harrison. Accoridng to him, he wouldn’t have signed up if not for the support of his former defensive teammates.
“If it weren’t for (Brett) Keisel, Ike (Taylor) and Troy (Polamalu), I would not have signed back,” Harrison told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“I had to talk to my kids whether they wanted me back or not and talked to my parents. The big thing is the guys. I talked to Keisel until 4 or 5 in the morning.”
Harrison came back to Pittsburgh and was immediately effective. In 2015, at 36 years old, Harrison signed a new two-year deal to stay in Pittsburgh.
In 2016, even with a healthy stable of linebackers, Harrison continues to be a pass-rushing menace. He totaled 13 quarterback hurries during the regular season, and finsihed with five sacks. He has a sack in each of Pittsburgh’s two playoff games this season.
The secret to Harrison’s success? It’s open to the public on social media: Harrison is an animal in the weight room. The night after his team defeated the Chiefs to advance to the AFC Championship, Harrison was back in the gym, putting up monster numbers:
James Harrison is on the fringe of being an NFL Hall of Famer, but his work ethic is Canton-worthy. Harrison can make a fourth career trip to the Super Bowl with one more win over New England.