James Harrison ‘Goes Deep’ in Revealing Podcast Interview

James Harrison

Getty Ex-Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison set off a firestorm with his 'envelope' claim.

Former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison recently appeared on the ‘Going Deep’ podcast, which is co-hosted by Harrison’s longtime teammate Willie Colon.

In a wide-ranging interview conducted by Colon and co-host Steven Cheah, Harrison talks about everything from former defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau (“just talking about [him] makes me emotional”), to the fines he was assessed for various hits, including a scary-looking sack of Vince Young of the Tennessee Titans.

James Harrison's awesome Sack vs Titans2010-12-07T14:17:32Z

Harrison Stopped Partying After Seeing Teammate’s Game Check

Yet the most eye-opening part of the interview reveals when and why Harrison decided to devote himself to football and taking care of his body. As you probably know, Harrison didn’t flourish with the Steelers early in his career; in fact, he signed with the Baltimore Ravens in 2003 after being released by Pittsburgh, only to return to the Steelers in 2004.

“My first three or four years—from 2002-06—there wasn’t a night that I wasn’t out…. There were plenty of nights when I left the after-hour [club] at 5:30 [am], ate breakfast and went straight in to work out,” said Harrison.

Though he insists that he and his teammates didn’t let the nightlife “mess up” what they were trying to accomplish on the field, it’s clear that Harrison didn’t come close to realizing his prodigious potential until he dedicated himself to football and taking care of his body.

“I think it was 2006 that I stopped drinking during the week,” he said. That’s when an unnamed teammate showed Harrison one of his game checks, which was for $223,000, approximately the same amount that Harrison was getting paid for an entire year.

That was the moment when Harrison decided he would do everything possible to maximize his abilities. He says he told himself: “I’ve got a short window to make a whole lot of money, and all I got to do is sacrifice. If I have to sacrifice for 10-15 years, whatever it may be, the money I could make in that time … I could generate generational wealth for me, my kids, my family.”

Two seasons later, in 2008, Harrison was named AP Defensive Player of the Year—two years before teammate Troy Polamalu would go on to win the same award.

In the Going Deep interview, Harrison makes it clear that Polamalu had the freedom to freelance, even though LeBeau’s complex defense had the potential to break down if a single player failed to meet his responsibilities.

“A few of the plays where you see Troy blitzing [in] the ‘A’ gap, jumping on the quarterback, Troy got deep-third [that is, he was responsible for one-third of the field in the deep secondary],” said Harrison. “That means the [other] dudes that got deep-third, they [actually] got deep two-thirds,” he continued, prompting laughter.

Harrison Misses the Locker Room Camaraderie

At another point in the interview Harrison lets us know that the only thing he misses about the NFL is the locker room camaraderie, though he insists players don’t bond as much as they did when he broke into the league.

In that regard he sounds a little like someone who is always complaining that music isn’t as good as it used to be.

“That’s something you are not going to get anymore is guys that are actually playing for each other and not playing for ‘likes’ and popularity and how many followers [they are] going to get,” he said. “I literally spent more time with the cats I played ball with off the field than I did with my actual family…. There [were] days I didn’t even get to the crib till Saturday morning—from Thursday.”

Ah, spoken like a true, pre-2006 James Harrison.

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