Every year you read/hear about players being labeled as a “football junkie”. This would refer to them constantly looking to improve their game in one way or another. Whether it is extra reps on a jugs machine, in early for film study or hosting player workout sessions.
Anyone who simply can’t get enough of the game of football.
If that is the criteria set forth to be labeled a “football junkie”, you can consider the Pittsburgh Steelers’ top draft pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Najee Harris, a junkie. The kid just can’t get enough, and it has in the early stages of offseason workouts it was running backs coach Eddie Faulkner who had to tell Harris to take some time off. To go home and relax.
“It is true,” Faulkner confirmed to media during mandatory minicamp. “I’m for all the hard work and the extra, I’m all here for that, I love it. But he also has to learn how to give himself breaks, too. He works his butt off and sometimes it’s a reward, like, ‘Hey man, go home, relax, watch TV, do something different than the football.’
“And so with him being the kind of guy he is, so engaged and always wanting to do drills, always wanting to be developed, sometimes I’m trying to teach him, ‘Sometimes you gotta take a deep breath.’”
When Harris spoke with the media during Rookie Minicamp, he spoke about how refreshing it was to just be able to focus on the game of football, and not classes. After receiving his degree from the University of Alabama, Harris has earned the opportunity to focus on one thing — being the best running back he can be for the Steelers.
What separates Harris from other players is his work ethic and attention to detail. Harris isn’t sloppy with anything he does involving the game. The way he trains, the workouts he puts himself through and even how he approaches drills given by Faulker this offseason.
“It’s crazy because I don’t have to coach any of it with him,” Faulkner continued. “Most of the time you encourage guys, ‘Hey, man, come in, get extra tape, come in, do extra work, etc., etc. Have not had to have one, single conversation with Najee in that regard because he’s always soaking it up and always wanting it. That’s a coach’s dream. That’s what you want, tail-waggers, like a dog wagging a tail ready to learn. And that’s exactly what he is in terms of his ambition and drive to want to learn.
“That’s fun as a coach.”
Harris has done everything right so far this offseason. Putting in the time and effort to show the Steelers they didn’t make a mistake when they selected him 24th overall in the draft. Harris clearly is willing to do the back end work to be great, but the biggest challenge of all has yet to be seen. That being whether he is capable of going out and putting it all together in between the white lines. During the team’s training camp, which is slated to begin at the end of July, few storylines will loom as large as Harris. With all eyes on him, it will be interesting to see how the young running back responds.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.