When breaking down the playing career of Pittsburgh Steelers former DPOY James Harrison, there have been many bone-rattling hits, from his suplex-style sack of Titans quarterback Vince Young, to nearly decapitating Browns receiver Mohamed Massaquoi to his lassoing of a Browns fan who decided it’d be a good idea to run onto the field. Considering the fact that, at least in his heyday, Harrison was viewed as one of the most intimidating presences in the league due to his violent, never-back-down nature, one could easily assume he’s been involved in his share of big hits.
Harrison’s also had his share of wages garnished as well, courtesy of Commissioner Roger Goodell, who isn’t exactly on Harrison’s list of favorite people.
However, that physicality is exactly what’s made Harrison who he is, and endeared him in the hearts of the blue collar hearts of Steelers fans. Believe it or not, he isn’t made of steel though, and his body, like anyone else’s, will ultimately break down. He has taken extreme measures to slow this event, and spends a lot of money to keep his body a finely-tuned instrument intent on crushing quarterbacks.
Much like a doctor uses x-rays or a construction worker uses a jackhammer, Harrison has his own tools for the job, and that’s himself, with which he spends roughly half a million dollars per year to keep in tip-top form.
“Whatever there is that I need to do to try and make myself better or get myself healthy, I’m going to do it,” Harrison said when said with the Cincinnati Bengals a few years ago “It wouldn’t be unreasonable to say that I spend anywhere between $400,000-$600,000 on body work, as far as taking care of my body, year-in and year-out.”
For most of us, we don’t exactly have that type of change simply lying around, but for an NFL athlete, especially one who boasts Harrison’s credentials, that type of money is a drop in the bucket. As any athlete will tell you, a proper diet is of utmost importance, and I’m sure there’s plenty of protein going into Harrison’s body, but there’s much that goes on behind the scenes, including acupuncture treatments, which Harrison has long been fond of.
This involves placing small needles at trigger points in the muscle, which provides relief from muscle fatigue and tightness. When these needles are put in place, the body instructs the connective tissue around the needle to contract, thus stimulating more blood flow and releases excess endorphins, or pain relievers. Curtis Martin, the Hall of Fame running back, was an avid fan of this treatment, and his 14,101 hard-earned yards is a testament to it.
Harrison also uses a hyperbaric chamber, which has a higher than normal air pressure inside, which helps your blood carry more oxygen to vital organs, and also heal wounds quicker. He also pays for massage treatments, as well as chiropractic services.
“Like I said, I get body work almost every single day except Saturday and Sunday,” Harrison said.
None of this covers the work done daily by the training staff including ice tubs or getting stretched out.
At his current age of 37, Harrison isn’t quite a shell of his former self, as highlighted by several big game performances in 2014. However, it’s clear he has lost a step and will likely be relegated to a situational role in 2015, according to outside linebackers coach Joey Porter. As it stands, his 69.5 career Steelers sacks is well within striking distance of Jason Gildon’s all-time team record of 77. Earlier this offseason, Harrison took the young linebacker corps under his wing, and brought them to Arizona to train with him, where he does so vigorously in the offseason. With a player who was cast off multiple times in his career, coupled with his unorthodox training regimens and routines, as evidenced by his freakish strength feats on his Instagram account, don’t be surprised to see Harrison rise to the occasion once more in 2015.