New Steelers running back, Najee Harris, sure likes to say “hella” a lot. That’s one thing I like about him, already.
I sat and watched Harris’s rookie mini-camp press conference with reporters over the weekend—you know, the media session where he appeared to be genuinely surprised when he found out the reporters in attendance watching camp drills weren’t boosters? That got me to thinking about Harris’s introductory press conference shortly after being selected with the 24th pick of the 2021 NFL Draft; much like the rookie-camp presser, he didn’t mind sparring with reporters in a playful and smart-ass kind of way.
Harris seemed to be bewildered and put off by some of the questions he was asked during both sessions. If I had the technological savvy to do so, I may have been able to extract a dozen or so meme and gif-worthy reactions from the young running back.
Someone who isn’t afraid to joke around in a smart-ass way during his first interactions with reporters as a professional football player? The total absence of intimidation in front of the bright lights? Two more things I already love about Harris.
The mini-camp presser ultimately motivated me to watch the four-part YouTube series about Harris’s road to the pros titled, well, “Road to the Pros.” While watching this series, I discovered that Harris likes to say many more swear words than just “hella.” That’s yet another thing I really like about him.
Harris also doesn’t appear to be deferential to anyone, not even to his very Lombardi-like college coach, Alabama’s Nick Saban. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say Harris is a disrespectful rookie; I’m saying there’s something very real and genuine about him. He doesn’t put on airs. Harris revealed during the course of the series that he didn’t know who Paul “Bear” Bryant was when he first arrived in Alabama.
If Harris didn’t know who Bryant was, that means there’s at least a 50/50 chance that’s he’s already looked at the statue of Steelers’ founder, Art Rooney, on the North Side of Pittsburgh and asked, “Who the hell’s that old dude with the cigar?”
That would be gold.
Obviously, I’m extremely excited about Harris the athlete and running back. He’s got a chance to be a force on the football field for the Pittsburgh Steelers sooner rather than later.
If Harris is a stud, he won’t have a hard time earning praise and cheers from the fans. But Harris may also be a force off the field with everything from helping the less fortunate, to speaking out on issues that are near and dear to him. I don’t know him at all, of course, but Harris doesn’t appear to be a person who is going to mince words when he speaks on things, whether it’s with reporters or fans.
That may ruffle the feathers of some. I watched last year as fans unfollowed Chase Claypool on Twitter for speaking out on social causes—and this was months before anyone even realized what a weapon he would be on the football field.
I don’t currently follow Harris on Twitter, but I will. I mean, how could I not?
And if Harris isn’t speaking out on social issues, he may be speaking out on football issues. If he’s asked about the game-plan, he may tell you about the game-plan. And if he’s telling you about the game-plan, it might not be in a warm and fuzzy kind of way. Nope, Harris doesn’t strike me as a “Well, you’ll have to ask Coach about that” kind of guy; Harris strikes me as the kind of guy whose coach may have to answer for controversial comments he made about the game-plan.
At the end of the day, the type of force Harris is off the field will be determined by the type of force he is on the field. Helping in the community is something that few fans will find fault with. As for being opinionated on social causes or the game-plan, it’s amazing the latitude a player is given when he’s good.
However, if he is the real deal as a running back, there may be many folks—including reporters, coaches, teammates and fans— who will have to reconcile Najee Harris the football force with Najee Harris the human force.
I just can’t wait to witness it all in action.