Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Persevering and taking advantage of opportunities

The list of past NFL Defensive Player of the Year winners is impressive: Joe Greene, Lawrence Taylor, Mike Singletary, Deion Sanders, Reggie White, Jack Lambert, Ray Lewis.

Yesterday, for the first time since the award began in 1971, an undrafted player has won.

Steelers LB James Harrison, who'd been cut three times by PIT and played in NFL Europe, made the team's 2004 roster after the starting LB went down with an injury, forcing the team to bring in Harrison "literally hours" before the start of training camp.

That same season, when another starter was suspended, Harrison moved into the starting lineup.

Harrison is an excellent example of someone who (1) worked hard and stuck with it and who (2) took advantage of his opportunities. [In fact, it's exactly what Malcolm Gladwell describes in his new book, which this post addresses.]

"Somebody else’s misfortune is somebody else’s fortune," said Harrison, who sometimes works out three times a day in the offseason. "It’s just hard work, perseverance and little blessings here and there. People said I couldn't do this or couldn't do that," he noted. "I was too short, too slow. Basically, I play and prepare myself in the offseason with the thoughts of what people said I couldn't do."