And last night, he made one of the most incredible plays in Super Bowl history.
Right before time expired in the first half, as the Cardinals were headed for the end zone, Kurt Warner threw his pass that landed in the hands of James Harrison—the 6-foot, 242-pound linebacker for the Steelers.
Harrison immediately began trucking down the field, but no one expected him to get too far. Then, he broke a few blocks, and no one knew if he could be stopped.
He was never stopped as Harrison collapsed into the end zone. The long interception-turned touchdown for Pittsburgh gave the Steelers a 17-7 lead before the half.
The linebacker could barely breathe, but it didn't matter. He did something that most big defenders only get to dream about—score a touchdown in the Super Bowl.
Harrison is being compared to New York Giant David Tyree, who made that miraculous catch against the Patriots in the Super Bowl last year. Both were never expected to do much in the NFL, and both came from rough beginnings.
Tyree was arrested for possession of marijuana, and Harrison was bagging groceries before he was a walk-on at Kent State. Harrison had a bunch of scouts looking at him in high school, but after he was arrested on assault charges in his senior year for shooting a BB gun in the locker room, his college football future looked all but gone.
Harrison did, however make the team was a walk-on at Kent State. After college, he spent a couple of years on the Steelers practice squad, and played briefly on the active roster for special teams.
The Steelers cut him three times, so he spent a brief part of the 2004 season with the Ravens before they eventually cut him as well.
After Baltimore let him go, he re-signed with the Steelers and played mostly special teams again. After a few years of making a name for himself at linebacker when Joey Porter left after the 2006 season, Harrison was appointed the starting linebacker—a post he's held the past two seasons.
Maybe fate had something to do with all of that. If he had not been cut all of those times, he might not have had the determination to play at the same high level he did in the Super Bowl. Much like Tyree—who, if he had never been caught with drugs—might have kept to those ways and not been any kind of factor for the Giants last year.
Both guys were huge factors for their teams. In my opinion, Tyree's catch is still the better play than Harrison's interception, and I only say that because, while it is highly unlikely that a linebacker returns an interception for 100 yards, it is less likely that Eli Manning and David Tyree can re-create that catch nine times out of 10.
Harrison capitalized on Warner's errant throw, but there was no mistake in the Manning/Tyree play—it was just one of those miraculous catches that almost a year later people still can't explainhow it happened.
Harrison got lost in the shuffle after Santonio Holmes' catch with 0:35 left in the game. Holmes was named MVP for his receptions, but most notable was his game-winning touchdown catch.
However, if Harrison hadn't made the interception, there's a possibility that the Cardinals would have scored on that drive and gone into the half with a 14-10 lead. Then, the entire momentum of the game shifts.
Harrison completely deflated the Cardinals with his play, even though the game wasn't decided until the last 35 seconds.
James Harrison is a hero to a lot of people this morning. He showed that you can always rise up against adversity and be a champion. He showed defenders that the "big guys" can score touchdowns too, and because he never gave up on himself, he now has two Super Bowl rings.
Although, I'm willing to bet this ring is a lot sweeter for Harrison because he played such a huge part in this game, and his play will go down as one of the greatest in Super Bowl history. That is something to be proud of.