Ramon Foster knows a thing or two about undrafted free agents. For his money, he played alongside one of the greatest. On a recent appearance on the Raw Room Podcast, Foster said James Harrison was the greatest undrafted player he knew.
“Defensive MVP James Harrison,” Foster immediately said. “All-Pro. Player of the Year.”
Foster didn’t offer too much detail behind his choice though his answer doesn’t require much explanation. Harrison was not only undrafted but nearly fell out of the league, cut multiple times by the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. He finally gained traction as a quality special teams player in Pittsburgh and earned his first start in 2004 against the Cleveland Browns when Joey Porter was ejected pre-game for punching RB William Green. Harrison capitalized on the opportunity, recording six tackles (two for a loss) and his first NFL sack, taking down QB Jeff Garcia mid-way through the third quarter.
Still, it’d be until 2007 for Harrison to become a full-time starter. Once he did, he never looked back. His stretch from 2007 to 2010 was one of the most dominant performances of his era. Over that time, he racked up 55 tackles for a loss, 45 sacks, 25 forced fumbles, and four interceptions, while, as Foster mentioned, he was named Defensive Player of the Year in 2008. That year, he set a career-high with 16 sacks and tied his best mark with seven forced fumbles.
Harrison’s most memorable moment came in Super Bowl 43, his wild pick-six against Kurt Warner to close out the first half. But it was far from his only shining one. He put together one of the most incredible performances in a single game, totaling 10 tackles (3 TFL), 6 QB hits, 3.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and an interception in a primetime, 75th anniversary game against the Baltimore Ravens. A performance that Harrison very dryly, as is his nature, called “fun.”
He finished his career as the Steelers’ all-time sack leader with 80.5, though he’ll soon be passed by T.J. Watt. Whether or not Harrison is the greatest UDFA of all-time is up for debate. There’s certainly plenty of competition and of course playing with him, Foster is a little biased. Some would argue he’s not even the Steelers’ greatest undrafted player – Donnie Shell has a heck of a case and gold jacket in hand. In the clip, Foster and the podcast hosts rattle off other worthy UDFA names. But Harrison is certainly up there, especially given his NFL success was anything but immediate. He wasn’t a starter until his age-29 season. It’s a career arc we may not see anytime soon and puts him in a special place in NFL history.
Check out the full clip below.