Pressley Harvin III had the worst game of his career on Sunday, punting against the Tennessee Titans. It may have had something to do with the fact that he has just had one of the worst weeks of his life. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie punter revealed on Instagram yesterday that his father, who is battling a terminal illness, was told this past week that he doesn’t have much time left.
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The post was in thanking the Steelers organization for helping to arrange travel and accommodations for his father, as well as his ill grandmother, to see their boy play in person, perhaps for one last time. I’m sure anybody who has been in even a remotely similar situation can understand where his mind might have been.
Drafted in the seventh round out of Georgia Tech, Harvin was kept over incumbent punter Jordan Berry, who had been with the team for the past half-decade. Berry has gone on to do well for himself with the Minnesota Vikings, while the rookie has had a rather up and down season.
Harvin ranks third to last in gross punting average this season at 43.9 yards per attempt. He ranks second to last in net punting average at just 38.1 net yards per punt this season. On Sunday, his gross average was 39.8 yards on five punts, with only one of those punts going inside the 20, with a net average of just under 30 yards. He shanked two of his first three punts in the game, and was booed by the Heinz Field crowd both times.
Of course, dealing with a close family member who has a terminal illness is extremely trying, and will inevitably affect all aspects of your life. That does not justify nor excuse Harvin’s performance, and indisputably, he must do better. However, it’s certainly easier to understand what he is going through.
I’ve already found myself writing this once in the past 24 hours, but here it is again: Football is a game. It’s not life. At best, it’s a metaphor for life, but it’s not the real thing. It’s a game played by real people who go through real things, no matter how well-compensated they might be for what they do.
There is no switch you can turn on and off to deal with your emotions, and to decided when they’re not going to affect you. It comes when it comes, and it has a cumulative effect over time. Harvin’s rookie season has not been very good. But he’s got much more significant things on his plate. And though he by no means used it as an excuse, it would be understandable if his attentions were somewhat divided right now.