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James Harrison Opens up on Career as Feared NFL Hit-Maker: “I Tried to Hurt People”

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Former Steelers LB James Harrison

Former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison had something instilled in him by his father as a young man that proved crucial to his long NFL career. The conversation in which that advice was given wasn’t something he ever forgot.

“He was like, ‘Listen, when you get out on that football field and y’all practicing or you’re playing a game, you ain’t got no friends,'” Harrison said on Ben Roethlisberger’s podcast, Footbahlin with Ben Roethlisberger. “‘You’ve got friends after the game is over with, but while you’re on that field at practice or playing the game … You treat everybody the same. If they try to stop you, you go through them.'”

Those words were part of what drove Harrison to play with the profound intensity that comes to mind when you think of him on the edge, coiled and ready to hand out punishment.

Harrison intimidated and exerted his will on whatever offensive player dared to cross his path. He had a sort of violence on his mind that helped him retire as the Steelers’ all-time leader in sacks.

“I tried to hurt people,” said Harrison, a Pro Football Hall of Fame semifinalist. “I never tried to injure anyone … I wanted them to not be able to finish the game.”

Harrison also talked about knocking out former Kent State teammate Josh Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi in the same contest against Cleveland in 2010.

“This is the thing,” Harrison said. “I hit Massaquoi at about 50%. Dead serious. I just wanted him to let go of the ball. If I would’ve knew then what I found out after, I would’ve gave him everything I had. If I knew they were going to fine me $75,000 for that, I would’ve laid off into him. He might not have gotten off the field.”

Cribbs suffered a concussion after the hit that he took, but later defended Harrison and his style of play. When asked on the podcast if he had a certain quarterback he liked sacking more than others, he let it be known that he didn’t discriminate when making a beeline for the passer.

“I wanted to get them all,” Harrison said. “Get them all and all the time.”

One thing is for sure — he wasn’t friendly with any opposing signal-caller.

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