Think of yourself as an 18-year-old and imagine that you played basketball for your high school team. Now, imagine that you took a hiatus from the sport after graduation, only to return a few years later and try again. What would the difference in inches be between 18-year-old you and 21-year-old you? For me, I think I might have gone from 5-foot-5 to around 5-foot-8, and I was a late bloomer. Three inches is a pretty significant amount that late, but even that wouldn't significantly alter my basketball skill set and abilities. In fact, I'd probably feel no different than I had before.
And now that you know the story about my height differential between the ages of 18 and 21, I can get into the James Harrison equivalent. Except it was anything but equivalent to my story. Because Harrison, who played football in high school but had to put his career on hold due to off-the-field issues and academic problems, had quite the transformation from the time he ended his high school career to when he started out as a walk-on at Kent State.
"I got on there, I was horrible. I hadn't did nothing in like two years," Harrison said on the "Half-Forgotten History" podcast with Trey Wingo. "So I went from 190 (pounds) at my high school my senior year, to the next time I was able to play, I was 270 (pounds). The first three snaps I was dogging. And after that, that went down hill and it went down hill fast."
Think about that. An 80-pound difference between the times you entered a football field in a competitive environment. You thought you had a foundation of skills in high school? How did those skills transfer over to the new version of you once you had gained nearly 100 pounds of mass? Fortunately, Harrison was able to slim down to the level in which he was at his most dominant throughout his NFL career, earning him five Pro Bowl selections and the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year Award.
"After spring ball I was able to earn my scholarship back. They saw that I was able to do a little bit of something and they offered me a full scholarship, and that was actually Coach (Dean) Peas," Harrison recalled. "So I only got to play three years. It took me a good part of almost two years to get back into real shape and... by the time I got back into shape I was 232 and I was about 6.5 percent body fat."
Even today, at 43 years old, it looks like Harrison still has the same drive to stay fit and healthy. His Instagram is full of insane workouts and jaw-dropping pictures of his physique, and all of that boils down to the fact that he doesn't want to become overweight.
"My biggest fear is becoming fat," Harrison said of his intense workouts. "So everything that I do is so that, hopefully, I'm never fat. So everyone's like how can you do this, what motivates you. My fear of being fat is my motivation.