While doing research for a recent article about Devin Bush's immense potential to evolve into one of the greatest inside linebackers in Steelers history, I wasn't surprised at the insane number of superior inside backers the Steelers have fielded, or that the greatness of Jack Lambert would standout so prominently in the annals of NFL history.
What did shock me more than just a little was the fond memories that kept flooding back of the outstanding career of former Steelers standout James Farrior and how truly unique a inside linebacker he was, both in style and demeanor.
James Farrior was a great player by all accounts, highly respected by his peers and opponents. In my research, I was reminded of just how overlooked and underrated Farrior was among the national sports media outside the city of Pittsburgh throughout his professional career. Similar to his teammate Aaron Smith, Farrior was an easy guy to overlook.
Farrior was a affable gentleman in all regards, and he was a man of few words by nature. He wasn't going to toot his own horn in an effort to call attention to himself. They say the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and oftentimes the more boastful players garner the most attention. That line of reasoning perfectly explains part of the reason why players like Farrior get overlooked.
Another reason why Farrior seemingly was taken for granted by so many was the manner in which he went about his business. Oftentimes fundamentally sound and insanely consistent gets mistaken for boring and unspectacular. The old adage "You don't know what you got ‘til it's gone." fits Farrior's game to a tee. Unbelievably the defensive leader and signal caller on two Lombardi Trophy winning teams, Farrior was only named to two Pro Bowls. Those seasons turned out to be his only two All-Pro selections also.
Part of the problem was undoubtedly the fact that Farrior was a late bloomer, due more to who drafted him, and how they tried to utilize his abilities. Farrior was the 8th overall selection in the 1997 NFL Draft by the New York Jets. Miscast as a outside linebacker by the Jets, Farrior struggled to find success on the field until 2001, his final season in New York. The Steelers wisely signed free agent Farrior in 2002 and moved him to inside linebacker, his collegiate position. It was the perfect marriage of player to scheme, resulting in the two aforementioned Lombardi Trophies.
Farrior was the polar opposite of the three all-time great inside linebackers I mentioned in my previous article. Farrior was far from a rampaging wild man starving for collisions and destruction. He was controlled chaos at the center of the Steelers defense. Always cool, calm, and collected, Farrior displayed a quiet confidence that permeated throughout the defense and elevated the play of those around him.
Even his nicknames gave us all a little insight into what made the player and the man. His childhood nickname was Potsie, given to him by his parents because he he had a potbelly as a child, but also for their affection for a character on the sitcom Happy Days. Whether they realized it or not, the nickname was a great fit. Much like the character on the show, Farrior was blessed with an easygoing personality and demeanor.
His other nickname was the Ultimate Farrior, a play on words referencing uber popular professional wrestler the Ultimate Warrior. The two contrasting monikers clearly reflect the fact that Farrior was able to separate what was required on the field, versus the individual he prided himself on being off the field.
Since his final NFL season in 2011, Farrior has continued to focus on positively impacting society with his charitable contributions through the James Farrior Foundation. I would advise our readers to do a quick search to learn more.
There is more than one way to be an outstanding inside linebacker, and James Farrior was proof of that. He let his game do the talking for him, and the results were deafening.