If you’re a Pittsburgh Steelers fan (and why wouldn’t you be, if you were reading this article?), you may have been clamoring for your favorite football team to draft a big, hulking defensive lineman in the first round of the recently conducted 2016 NFL Draft.
Andrew Billings, the freakishly strong interior lineman from Baylor, may have been your number one choice. In-fact, in many mock drafts, he was the guy predicted to arrive in Pittsburgh at pick 25. If you were in the Billings camp, you were surely disappointed when cornerback Artie Burns of Miami was the top pick.
The following evening, you may have been ready to throw your laptop/smartphone when Billings wasn’t the second round selection (it was safety Sean Davis out of Maryland). By the third round, as teams continued to pass on Billings, you probably figured it was a no-brainer that Pittsburgh would take him with the 89th pick.
But, once again, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin thwarted your dreams and selected Javon Hargrave, an interior lineman out of South Carolina State. If you didn’t destroy whatever device you normally use to access the Internet and you researched Hargrave’s college football history, you may have said, “Andrew who?” as you quickly fell head-over-heals in-love with this potential diamond in the rough.
- Actually, scratch that. Hargrave is no diamond in the rough.
By all accounts, he looks like a valuable diamond that happened to be on display at some mom and pop jewelry store for the past few years, instead of your traditional corporate places you find at the mall.
South Carolina State is a I-AA football program, and that as much as the weaknesses listed on Hargrave’s NFL.com draft profile, such as “squatty arms and tiny hands” is probably what made most teams shy away from him in the first or second round.
Fact is, red flags are a big deal, and while playing for a I-AA school isn’t a character flaw, it could be a competitive one. However, as Kevin Colbert told the assembled media after selecting Hargrave, the youngster did everything he was supposed to do at that level; he dominated:
- Hargrave was named both the SBN Sports Mel Blount Defensive Player of the Year and MEAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2014 and again in 2015.
That’s some serious dominance. Don’t believe me?
- In four seasons at South Carolina State, Hargrave had 37 sacks and 62.5 tackles for loss.
That, my friend, is a man among boys.
According to Steelers defensive line coach John Mitchell, Hargrave didn’t have good enough grades to go to one of your traditional college powerhouses. Nevertheless, he got his chance at SC State, and, sometimes in life that’s all a person needs. Hargrave did enough in college to get noticed by the NFL, and being a third-round pick, he’ll certainly have a great chance to turn himself into a professional football player.
Speaking of Mitchell, he referenced the Steelers success in the 1970s with taking players from small and historically black colleges, when he spoke to the media shortly after his bosses gave him his latest pupil:
The first thing I’d like to say if Mr. (Bill) Nunn is alive today, he would really like this pick. When he graduated (high school), he didn’t have the grades to go to school. He set out, worked hard, worked his way in, got there and played very well. Out of anyone coming out this year, defensive linemen or defensive tackles, this guy is pretty impressive.
If coach Mitchell likes his new prospect, you just know Steelers fans are already salivating at the thought of watching him do his thing at training camp.
A big, athletic, 300-plus defensive lineman who hails from a small school? If he contributes anything early, Hargrave will be a fan-favorite before the start of the regular season.
I know my Steelers fans, and there is no way Javon Hargrave won’t quickly be embraced and beloved.