Taming the Beast: A Sit-Down with James Harrison

Josh TaylorContributor IMay 29, 2009

PITTSBURGH - JANUARY 18:  James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers lines up on defense against the Baltimore Ravens during the AFC Championship game on January 18, 2009 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

As an undrafted free agent out of Kent State, James Harrison joined the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2002 as a name at the bottom of a roster, released by the team, re-signed to the practice squad, and then finally activated for one game at the end of the season.

In 2003, was released two days after being named to the final roster out of training camp, re-signed to the practice squad, again, and was eventually released again, sitting out of football for an entire year.

In 2004, after being released by the Baltimore Ravens, Harrison returned to the Steelers to stay, and this time, didn't waste the opportunity. He played in all 16 games that season and started in four: His most memorable performance of that season was his six tackles and a sack against Cleveland on Nov. 14.

After spending 2005 and 2006 as a reserve, Harrison became a starter in 2007, replacing team leader and fan favorite Joey Porter. But in two seasons as a starter, Harrison has erased all doubt about his ability as a replacement, with 24.5 sacks, two Pro Bowl selections, and a first-team All-Pro selection.

Having seen the ups and downs of his tumultuous career, both on and off the field, these questions come to mind:


After such a difficult start to your career, you have come into a great deal of success in Pittsburgh. Would you have ever imagined things would turn around for you this way when you were out of football for a year?


You are the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, you have your second Super Bowl ring, and now you have a lucrative, long-term contract that will financially secure you for years to come. How have you maintained your focus going into this coming season?


Your 100-yard interception return for a touchdown in the Super Bowl is, of course, the longest play in Super Bowl history. Do you think you will ever have another opportunity to make a play like that?


A lot of discussion came up this year about how last season's defense ranked among the best ever. Where do you think it ranks, and do you think it could get better?


This defensive unit, besides being so dominant, is such a close-knit group. How much do you think that affects your success on the field, and do you think losing Larry Foote will change that?


You have been given a lot of nicknames in the past: "The Pit Bull", "The Silverback", and your teammates call you "D-Bo", from the movie, Friday. Which do you think sums you up the best?


You have earned the reputation of being the staring contest champion in the locker room. How long do you think you will hold that title? Are there any serious contenders that you think can beat you?


There have been a couple of serious incidents with you regarding your son, James Harrison, III: first, the domestic abuse allegation regarding his baptism, and now, the recent attack on him by your pit bull. What have you learned from your experiences and your career that you think will help you down the road as a father?


There has been a lot of controversy in the media about pit bulls, and their negative stereotypes, especially with Michael Vick's legal situation. Do you think that pit bulls are naturally aggressive, dangerous animals, or does the responsibility lie with their owners regarding their training and safety?


It became public recently that your reason for declining both invitations to the White House as a Super Bowl champion was because you have a fear of flying. Is there anything else you're afraid of?


When your playing career is over, and you look back on what you had to overcome to achieve the success you have, what is the one thing that you would be most proud of?