Creator:Matt Freed Credit:Post-Gazette Copyright:2016 Post-Gazette
In life, it is extremely difficult to put so much effort into something, and then come up short in the end. This is the feeling that struck the many NFL players that were the victims of roster cuts this past Saturday afternoon. Long days of workouts, film, and taking hard hits from other players who are out to take the same job you are vying for, and it all seems to be for nothing. Some got lucky and were signed to a practice squad, while others have to wave goodbye to the game they love.
However, the dream may not be over for everyone. Each team is allowed 10 players on their practice squads, and each of those players must be ready to be called up within a moment’s notice. It is a long-shot for a practice squad player to be able to scratch the surface and earn significant playing time, but it is not unheard of.
Several NFL legends began their careers on practice squads, waiting patiently for an opportunity to prove themselves. The success stories of these once-practice squad dwellers should inspire those who are currently on a scout team, that they might one day have a success story of their own.
Five time pro bowl linebacker and two time Super Bowl Champion James Harrison was once faced with an uphill battle in his NFL career. As an undrafted free agent out of Kent State University, Harrison already had a chip on his shoulder and had to show that he was instead worthy of a draft pick. He wound up on the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he struggled to learn the playbook during his first couple of years. He then went to play in Europe, which helped him develop in order to earn another opportunity with the Steelers. He never looked back.
Harrison is now retired, but his legacy still lives on. While he is widely regarded as one of the meanest, hardest working men on the football field, he has a soft side as well. Social media has been a great platform that Harrison has used to strengthen himself as a person, and show the real side of him. From talking about his favorite TV shows, to raising awareness about his James Harrison Family Foundation, Harrison shows that he is more than just another number on a football team.
The practice squad is not the 53 man roster. These players have a long journey ahead, and a lot of work to do if they want to earn a full-time spot. But the James Harrison story should inspire them. Not only the way he played the game, but also the way he carries himself off the field.