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James Harrison

James Harrison at practice during training camp at Saint Vincent College in 2007 just before his breakout season.
No. 92     Pittsburgh Steelers
Linebacker
Personal information
Date of birth: May 4, 1978 (1978-05-04) (age 31)
Place of birth: Akron, Ohio
Height: 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m) Weight: 242 lb (110 kg)
Career information
College: Kent State
Undrafted in 2002
Debuted in 2002 for the Pittsburgh Steelers
Career history
 As player:
*Offseason and/or practice squad member only
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics as of 2009
Tackles     385
Sacks     38.5
INTs     3
Stats at NFL.com

James "Silverback" Harrison, Jr. (born May 4, 1978) is an American football linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League. He was signed by the Steelers as an undrafted free agent in 2002. He played college football at Kent State.

A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Harrison has earned Super Bowl rings with the Steelers in Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII. He has also been a member of the Baltimore Ravens.

Contents

Early years

Born in Akron, Ohio, Harrison was the youngest of 14 children to James Sr. (a chemical truck driver) and Mildred.[1] Harrison attended Coventry High School. He was one of the first African-Americans to play football at Coventry. [2]

Professional career

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2002-2003

The Steelers signed Harrison as an undrafted rookie in 2002, making him the first Kent State alumnus to play at linebacker for the team since Hall of Famer Jack Lambert.

Harrison spent two years on and off the practice squad for the Steelers, and was also briefly on the active roster towards the end of the 2002 season, playing only special teams. Teammate and fellow linebacker James Farrior later told NFL Network that Harrison was so green early on in his career that he would simply “give up” on plays he was struggling on and would even ask the coaches not to play him when he was struggling.[3]

Harrison wore number 93 during this period before adopting his current number 92, which at the time was worn by fellow linebacker and Pro Bowler Jason Gildon.

2004

He was signed by Baltimore in late 2003, then sent to the Rhein Fire of NFL Europe, but eventually cut by the Ravens.[2] Shortly after, he was signed a fourth time by the Steelers during training camp in 2004 after Clark Haggans sustained an injury in an offseason weightlifting accident. Showing much improvement, Harrison made the final roster and has remained with the Steelers since. Harrison later told the Beaver County Times that if not for Haggans's injury, he planned on retiring from football at age 26 to focus on becoming a veterinarian, something that Harrison still plans on doing after his football career ends. Harrison also considered following in his father's footsteps and become a truck driver,[3] and to this day does have a commercial driver's license.[4]

Throughout the 2004 season, Harrison mostly played special teams with occasional reps at linebacker. His first career start came against his hometown Cleveland Browns in Cleveland on November 14 after teammate Joey Porter and Browns running back William Green were ejected for fighting during the pregame warm-ups. Harrison had a good game statistically in the Steelers' 24–10 victory against their hated rival.

Harrison scored his first career touchdown on a fumble recovery in the final week of the season against the Buffalo Bills.

2005-2006

Harrison started in three games of the 2005 season when starting linebacker Clark Haggans was injured. His biggest highlight of the year was in a game against the San Diego Chargers, where he intercepted a Drew Brees pass for a 25 yard return. During the return, he made a huge leap over LaDainian Tomlinson, the Chargers star running back.

Harrison gained some attention and popularity when he bodyslammed a Cleveland Browns fan during a 41-0 Pittsburgh win on Christmas Eve. The intoxicated fan had leapt onto the field and was charging towards several Steelers players when Harrison grabbed the man and put him on the ground. Harrison restrained the fan until authorities took him away.[5]

The Steelers went on to win Super Bowl XL that season. Although Harrison was not a major factor in the game, he did play and earn a Super Bowl ring with the team, recording a team-high three special teams tackles.

2007

In the 2007 offseason, with longtime head coach Bill Cowher resigning after 15 seasons and Mike Tomlin taking over the reins, the Steelers controversially cut Joey Porter for salary cap reasons. Although the Steelers drafted two linebackers with their first two picks that year (Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley), Harrison was appointed the starter in place of Porter. The decision would ultimately pay off, as Harrison would go on to have a breakout season and earn his first trip to the Pro Bowl, making All-Pro as a starter on the AFC squad.

On November 5, Harrison had a standout game on Monday Night Football against the Baltimore Ravens. He piled up 9 total tackles, 3.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 interception.[6]

On November 26, during a Monday Night Football game, an announcer gave Harrison the nickname, "Mr. Monday Night", because of his outstanding performance on November 5. He piled up 8.5 sacks, 7 forced fumbles, 3 recovered fumbles, and 98 tackles on the year. He was voted team MVP for the 2007 season.

2008

In the Steelers Week 4 Monday Night Football game against the Baltimore Ravens Harrison recorded 10 total tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 tackles for a loss, and a forced fumble.[7][8]

Along with LaMarr Woodley, who by this point was a starter in his own right, after the team chose not to re-sign Clark Haggans the previous offseason, Harrison and Woodley have become arguably the team's best pass-rushing duo since Greg Lloyd and Kevin Greene in 1994.[9] Harrison amassed 16 sacks, breaking the team record set by Mike Merriweather in 1987. The two teammates set a team record with 27½ sacks.

Harrison also played special teams on a regular basis, making him one of the few regular NFL starters to also play special teams. His most notable special teams play for 2008, however, arguably cost the Steelers their game against the New York Giants in Week 8. With the Steelers leading 14-12 in the fourth quarter and having to punt from their own end zone, Harrison played as long snapper after regular long snapper Greg Warren suffered a season-ending knee injury earlier in the game. Harrison inadvertently snapped it over Mitch Berger's head for a safety, tying the score.[10]

2009

On January 5, 2009, Harrison was named the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year for the 2008 season, beating out Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware for the award.[11] Harrison became the first undrafted player to win the award.[12][13]

During Super Bowl XLIII, Harrison intercepted a pass from Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner at the goal line and ran back the length of the field for a 100-yard touchdown at the end of the first half. In a memorable scene, Harrison collapsed in the endzone and spent several minutes regaining his breath as his teammates celebrated. It was the longest play in Super Bowl history (surpassing Desmond Howard's 99-yard kickoff return in Super Bowl XXXI) and helped the Steelers defeat the Arizona Cardinals 27-23.[14]

Before the game, Gregg Easterbrook (author of Tuesday Morning Quarterback from Page 2 on ESPN.com) named Harrison the 2008 Tuesday Morning Quarterback Non-QB Non-RB NFL MVP.[15] When receiving the trophy for the award, Harrison said he never even heard of the award.[16] The week before, Easterbrook named Harrison to his annual All-Unwanted All-Pros due to his struggles earlier in his career of having been cut four times, three by the Steelers.[17]

On February 7, 2009, Harrison was parodied on Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update by cast member Kenan Thompson. Here Thompson depicts Harrison as being seemingly still out of breath and exhausted after his 100 yard interception return in the Super Bowl the week before.

On April 13, 2009, it was reported that Harrison gained a 6-year, $51.75 million contract extension with the Steelers.[18]. In four games in October Harrison had 7.0 sacks, 25 tackles, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. He earned AFC defensive player of the month honors for October[19]. He was the only Steeler to be named to be a starter in the Pro Bowl that year.

Personal

As well as being nicknamed "Silverback", Harrison's teammates also call him Deebo, after the character from the Friday movies.[20]

He has two children, James Harrison III, born in 2007, and Henry, born in 2009.[21]

Harrison elected not to visit the White House with the rest of the team when the Steelers won Super Bowl XLIII. Skipping the visit gained some media attention, as Harrison said that Barack Obama (who openly supported the Steelers in the game and considers it his second favorite NFL team after the Chicago Bears)[22] would have invited the Arizona Cardinals had they won: "This is how I feel -- if you want to see the Pittsburgh Steelers, invite us when we don't win the Super Bowl. As far as I'm concerned, he [Obama] would've invited Arizona if they had won." [23] Harrison also skipped the team's visit after winning Super Bowl XL when George W. Bush was president. His absences were later credited to his fear of flying.

Arrest

In March 2008, Harrison was arrested and charged with simple assault and criminal mischief stemming from a domestic altercation with his girlfriend.[24] On April 3, 2008 the district attorney dropped all charges because Harrison had completed anger management counseling and psychological counseling.[25]

The arrest gained some controversy after the team released wide receiver Cedrick Wilson in a similar but unrelated incident around the same time but not Harrison, with the Steelers even issuing a press release shortly after they released Wilson stating that the Harrison incident and Wilson's incident were examined "on a case-by-case basis" and Wilson's incident determined that he needed to be released while Harrison had "taken responsibility for his actions."[26] Steelers owner Dan Rooney, a lifelong devout Catholic, added that the incident was concerning their son's baptism, that Harrison's girlfriend reportedly didn't want their son baptized, and that Harrison promptly called the Rooney family about the incident.[3] Nonetheless, there were still accusations of a double standard because of the timing of both Harrison's and Wilson's incidents.[27][28][29][30] The NFL, which had been cracking down on off-the-field conduct, took no action in either incident.

Dog Incident

On May 23, 2009, Harrison's child sustained an injury to his thigh when the family's pit bull became agitated and bit him. The boy's mother[31]; Beth Tibbott, who had let the dog out of his cage, was also bitten when she tried to intervene. The dog also bit the player's massage therapist, who needed three stitches. Mr. Harrison's agent, William Parise, said the boy's injuries were "serious but certainly not life-threatening[32]. On Tuesday the 26th, the child was released from the hospital[33]. The pit bull was scheduled to be euthanized but through the team Harrison was able to place the dog in a temporary home that specializes in training aggressive dogs to be gentle.[34]

References

  1. ^ Sports Illustrated Super Bowl XLIII Champions Pittsburgh Steelers, page 69
  2. ^ a b Merrill, Elizabeth (2009-01-25). "Harrison gives Steelers 'scary' presence". ESPN.com. http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/playoffs2008/news/story?id=3855349. 
  3. ^ a b c http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/playoffs2008/news/story?id=3855349
  4. ^ Sports Illustrated Super Bowl XLIII Champions Pittsburgh Steelers, page 71
  5. ^ http://pittsburghlive.com/x/tribune-review/sports/s_407370.html
  6. ^ http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/boxscore?gid=20071105023
  7. ^ http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/boxscore?game_id=29588&displayPage=tab_box_score&season=2008&week=REG4
  8. ^ D MVP candidates: Awesome Albert has plenty of company
  9. ^ http://news.steelers.com/article/100387/
  10. ^ http://kdka.com/sports/Steelers.Giants.score.2.849202.html
  11. ^ http://www.newsday.com/sports/football/wire/sns-ap-fbn-ap-defensive-player,0,4885809.story
  12. ^ http://www.sportingnews.com/yourturn/viewtopic.php?t=504045
  13. ^ Harrison named NFL Defensive Player of the Year Steelers.com
  14. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/02/sports/football/02harrison.html?em
  15. ^ http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=easterbrook/090203&sportCat=nfl
  16. ^ http://www.tampabay.com/sports/football/bucs/article971486.ece
  17. ^ http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=easterbrook/090127&sportCat=nfl
  18. ^ http://www.nfl.com/news/story?id=09000d5d80fc0436&template=with-video-with-comments&confirm=true
  19. ^ Harrison wins player of the month
  20. ^ http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2008/9/6/608579/before-we-get-this-party-s
  21. ^ Self-Imposed Obstacles Don't Stop Steelers' Harrison NYTimes.com, January 5, 2009
  22. ^ http://kdka.com/politics/Barack.Obama.Steelers.2.908698.html
  23. ^ [1]
  24. ^ http://www.wpxi.com/sports/15544164/detail.html?rss=burg&psp=news
  25. ^ http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08094/870237-66.stm
  26. ^ http://news.steelers.com/article/87807/
  27. ^ Ihttp://bleacherreport.com/articles/14043-pittsburgh-precedent-steelers-release-cedrick-wilson-keep-james-harrison
  28. ^ http://www.sportsnet.ca/football/nfl/2008/03/20/wilson_steelers/print/
  29. ^ http://www.wsls.com/sls/sports/professional/professional_football/article/rooney_steelers_released_cedrick_wilson_because_of_arrest/7549/
  30. ^ http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/blog/shutdown_corner/post/Ben-Roethlisberger-could-murder-a-dozen-infants-?urn=nfl,73238
  31. ^ Family pit bull bites the son of Steelers' James Harrisonby Lilian Thomas and Diana Nelson-Jones: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
  32. ^ Toddler son of Steelers' James Harrison mauled in backyard By Jill King Greenwood, TRIBUNE-REVIEW]
  33. ^ Two-year-old son of Steelers LB Harrison released from hospital
  34. ^ http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09171/978608-62.stm

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Bob Sanders
NFL Defensive Player of the Year
2008
Succeeded by
Charles Woodson
Preceded by
Bob Sanders
GMC Sierra Defensive Player of the Year
2008
Succeeded by
TBD

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