Najee Harris wins Alabama pro day from the sidelines
By RJ Young
FOX Sports College Football Writer
The Alabama Crimson Tide put on their pro day on Tuesday and the event served as a showcase for several of the 2021 NFL draft class’s first-round selections.
Cornerback Patrick Surtain won the day on the field with a 4.46 40-yard dash, 39-inch vertical and 18 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press — all at 6-foot-2, 208 pounds.
He solidified his status as the No. 1 defensive back in the class and backed up the numbers and accolades he won on the field last season.
However, while most NFL teams who watched the Alabama pro day saw Mac Jones try to vault himself into the middle of the first round come April 29, the player who received the most buzz did not work out on Tuesday.
The player that stole the show was running back Najee Harris.
Harris expected to catch a flight from Dallas to Birmingham on Monday night, but his flight was canceled due to lightning.
That might’ve been the end of the journey for most. Again, Harris was not scheduled to work out. He didn’t have to. We all know he’s the best running back available in this draft after putting together a Heisman-caliber season last year.
At 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, he finished his career with school records for rushing touchdowns (46) and yards (3,843), after skipping early entry into the draft a year ago. That means Heisman winners Mark Ingram and Derrick Henry are looking up at him on that list.
He had nothing to prove by jumping into a car and driving nine hours in one direction so that he could be at pro day by 10 a.m. on Tuesday morning.
He did it anyway. And he did it to support his teammates.
That’s just Najee.
Folks who’ve gotten to know Harris know this is not new, nor is this an act of putting on airs. Harris is built this way, and he has been from a young age.
He’s the kind of player who, years later, recognized the voice of a reporter who used to cover him in high school in Antioch, Calif., and called him out in a press conference ahead of the national title game in January.
"Is that Ron?" he said. "From the San Francisco Chronicle? Can you hear me, Ron?"
"Yes, sir," Ron Kroichick said. "It is me."
"What’s up?! You ain’t gon' say nothin'? What’s up with it? Dang, Ron. Don’t act fake now, Ron."
That’s just Najee.
He’s the kind of player, who after winning, kept it a buck when a reporter tried to gas him up after the Tide rolled (up) Ohio State in the national title game.
After ripping through Notre Dame for 125 yards on just 15 carries, the Buckeyes held Harris to just 79 yards on 22 carries.
"Najee, Ohio State has a really good front. How were you able to expose those holes so effortlessly?"
"Effortlessly?" Harris said. "You didn’t see what they was doing? They was blowing my ass up. What you talkin' about?" he said. "Bruh, they was blowing my ass out. You trippin'."
That’s just Najee.
He’s the kind of player who, when asked about U.S. Women’s National Team soccer star Megan Rapinoe, could rap about her for over a minute while gushing with pride.
"Her just playing a part," he said, "Standing up, not listening to all the naysayers out there, really just standing up for what she believes in – it’s motivating, and it’s inspirational … Maybe not too many men would say they look up to a woman nowadays, but I really look up to her."
And there he was, on Monday, being Najee once again.
Don’t kid yourself, either. It matters.
Those bits of character, that bit of humility and a team-first persona, create details that solidify in an NFL evaluator’s mind who this player is, how he might get along in a locker room and just what you can expect outside the boundaries of a football field from him.
Part of the process is the process. And Harris gave NFL teams one more reason why they should trust him.
Because that's just Najee.
RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young. Subscribe to "The RJ Young Show" on YouTube. He is not on a StepMill.RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young. Subscribe to "The RJ Young Show" on YouTube. He is not on a StepMill.