His mom didn’t love it. Nor did Nick Saban. But when the situation calls for it, Najee Harris isn’t afraid to catch some air. And few backs in this draft class hurdle the way he does. Harris sat down for a 1v1 interview with Steelers.com’s Missi Matthews and asked what makes him such an effective leaper.
“She never liked me, neither did Coach Saban liked me hurdling,” Harris said in the interview. “It’s more of an instinct thing. I am a bigger back so defenders tend to go low on me. I want to have an answer to any situation I’m in.”
Harris’ ability to leap over defenders is a reminder of the impressive athlete he is despite his back-back frame. He routinely jumped over DBs in open grass in college. Arguably his most notable attempt was jumping over Notre Dame’s Nick McCloud on his way to a long run in this year’s Rose Bowl.
But it’s far from the only time. In fact, this video has a compilation of all his hurdles. What’s most impressive in those clips, beyond the athleticism to get that up in the air itself, is how routinely and easily he sticks the landing. Which is important because he knows if he doesn’t, it’s a hard crash into the ground.
“When I’m in the air, I make sure to get up as high as I can,” he said. “If I get hit, it’s going to be a lot of impact on the ground.”
That’s the obvious concern and why his mother (and his coach) weren’t thrilled with the idea. But they have to be thrilled with the results. It’s that small-back ability on that big-back frame that made him the top back on the Steelers’ board. And their top selection in the first round.
Whether it’s running through, past, or over, Harris will look to jumpstart the Steelers’ stagnant running game in 2021.