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Steelers rookie Javon Hargrave thriving in the role as underdog in first NFL training camp

Coming from South Carolina State, Javon Hargrave is used to people not giving him a fair chance, but in the NFL he is preparing to take the opportunity and not wait for any handouts.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

If you don't follow NFL Draft coverage closely, you might have seen the Pittsburgh Steelers select a defensive tackle from South Carolina State named Javon Hargrave in the third round and think the following.

"What? Who? From where?"

Trust me, you wouldn't be alone asking those questions, and Hargrave is used to people questioning him from a football standpoint.

When playing football as a young kid, Hargrave was actually a running back and a tight end until middle school. It was there when he transitioned to the defensive side of the football, but it was high school when his past as an offensive player helped him fine tune his skills as a pass rusher along the defensive line.

"In high school, I felt it came easy to me, beating some of those people," Hargrave told DKPittsburghSports. "It felt easy. I knew this was for me."

Despite being the smallest defensive lineman on the roster, Hargrave has proven he is more than capable of using his built-in leverage to beat offensive lineman across the line of scrimmage. His quick first step and inside pass rush has impressed coaches too.

"He moves good. That sucker is nimble as all get out for a defensive lineman," Defensive coordinator Keith Butler said.

What Hargrave could provide for the Steelers in 2016 is a dream scenario for the defensive coordinator. Is Hargrave an every down player in his rookie year? Absolutely not, but can he be a situational player who can make an impact? Absolutely.

Hargrave has proven throughout training camp he is capable of getting to the quarterback, and inserting him into the lineup between Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt could open the door for some serious pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

What is it that makes Hargrave so difficult to stop, outside of his speed and agility? He knows how to use his size, 6-feet 2-inches, 305-pounds, to his advantage. Just ask fellow rookie Jerald Hawkins how difficult it is stopping Hargrave.

"Honestly, it can be a challenge at times because dealing with that height challenge, if he gets under you, you're gonna have some problems on hand," Hawkins said following Thursday's practice. "You need to stay low and have great technique. It's not easy."

Throughout this process, Hargrave has kept a giant chip on his shoulder. Not just entering the NFL, but dating back to high school. He was recruited by some big-time Division 1 schools, but low test scores forced him to attend South Carolina State instead.

"Those test scores held me back a lot, so I had to take a different route," Hargrave said. "That's why I'm here. I had to tighten up. Coming out, I was kind of immature, but as I went to college, I learned from my mistakes and actually, now, I graduated and actually had a 3.0 GPA."

Now in the NFL, more mature and wiser, Hargrave hasn't gotten rid of that chip on his shoulder. Always ready to prove himself every time he steps onto the field.

"I always play with a chip on my shoulder," Hargrave said. "That's kind of what made me, always feeling like the underdog and trying to prove myself every day."

That attitude got him this far, and for the Steelers and their massive fan base, they hope it propels him to great things for the black and gold -- like a 7th Lombardi trophy in 2016.