Art Oppermann’s recent letter sent me scurrying to find the actual comments he referenced. It turned out to be Instagram by Pittsburgh Steelers’ linebacker James Harrison. Harrison had required his two young sons to return their “participation” trophies because they didn’t “earn” them.
To appreciate Harrison’s remarks you have to give his comments perspective.
Harrison was the youngest of 14 children raised in relatively humble circumstances in Akron, Ohio. He was one of the first African-American football players on his high school team. He was long on ability but short on maturity. Due to his off-field antics major college football teams shied away from him.
He ended up playing at Kent State and later was signed by the Steelers as an undrafted free agent. He was considered by most experts to be too short to be an NFL linebacker and too light to be a defensive end.
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He spent his first two seasons on the Steelers’ practice squad and was cut three times. He was later signed by the Ravens and later cut again.
A less driven man might have taken his “participation” jerseys and gone home. Harrison persevered.
The Steelers resigned him after an injury to one of their starting linebackers. He made their roster after training camp.
The rest is history.
Two Super Bowl rings, five-time Pro Bowler, NFL defensive player of the year, two-time Steelers’ MVP, and many-many other awards.
Harrison set a high bar and is trying to instill that drive in his sons.