When Kent State linebacker James Harrison entered the NFL as an undrafted signee by the Pittsburgh Steelers, little expected him to become a two-time Super Bowl champion, five-time Pro Bowl selection and one-time defensive player of the year. However, over the 16 years that followed the 2002 draft, the undersized linebacker proved his doubters wrong and turned his career into a memorable one.
Today, Harrison has decided to end his run in the league and announced his retirement via Instagram:
I’ve missed way too much for way too long...and I’m done. Many thanks to my family, coaches, the fans, and everyone who played a role in my football life. #2ndAndFinalRetirement #HarrisonFamilyValues #BlessedAndHighlyFavored #GodsPlan
Harrison started his career on and off the Steelers' roster and practice squad, played in the now-defunct NFL Europe, and even had a short stint with Pittsburgh's division rivals from Baltimore. In 2004, two years after entering the league, he had his breakout season and established himself as a key member of one of the better defensive units of the decade – and for nine years, Harrison was as important to the Steelers as any player.
Over his first tenure with the team, he helped Pittsburgh win the Super Bowl twice and in 2008 was voted the NFL's defensive player of the year. In 2013, Harrison opted to leave the Steelers to join the Cincinnati Bengals. After one season and his first retirement, however, the veteran returned to Pittsburgh for three-and-a-half more seasons. Midway through 2017, he was unceremoniously let go by the Steelers and signed with the New England Patriots.
Harrison played the last four of his 215 career games for the Patriots and helped the team reach Super Bowl 52. The 39-year old – the oldest defensive player in football – entered free agency after the title game but remained unsigned until his retirement announcement earlier today.