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Navigating uneasy stardom in Pittsburgh

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Navigating uneasy stardom in Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH — The partitions of Najee Harris’ comfy, three-story townhouse mirror his outstanding rise to prominence.

Above one stairway sits a framed Giants jersey, from the time Harris threw out the ceremonial first pitch final season in San Francisco. Another framed Pirates jersey marks one other first pitch in Pittsburgh. A colourful portray reveals him in full flight, majestically hurdling a Notre Dame defender for Alabama in the Rose Bowl recreation on Jan. 1.

Harris’ decisions downstairs strike a distinct tone, together with art work of John Carlos and Tommie Smith elevating black-gloved fists on the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. Another portray depicts writer James Baldwin. In the kitchen, ready for its spot on the wall, rests a hanging picture of former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali.

These rely as rewards for Harris’ perseverance. He traced an adventurous journey, from a tough upbringing that included stretches of homelessness … to a decorated career at Antioch High School, the place he grew to become the nation’s No. 1 recruit and the main rusher in Bay Area prep historical past … to 2 stressed years at Alabama, adopted by two record-breaking seasons there … to first-round draft alternative of one of many NFL’s most storied franchises.

Harris, 23, was the primary offensive participant selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the primary spherical since 2012. They instantly made him their featured operating again and reshaped their offense round him, a nod to his sturdy body (6-foot-1, 232 kilos), polished expertise and unusual maturity.

But whilst Harris savors the trimmings of success, he additionally finds himself trapped by success. As he sat at his kitchen desk one evening final week, Harris spoke of an grownup autograph seeker aggressively knocking on his automobile window, operating alongside the car and holding up his bloody arm as proof of his fandom after he fell whereas following Harris.

Another fan spent greater than two hours ready by Harris’ automobile outdoors an area restaurant, claiming he wrote down the license plate quantity after seeing him drive away from the group’s observe facility. Yet one other fan unnerved Harris by inexplicably asserting his avenue handle at a mall (the person lived there beforehand, it turned out).

Steelers running back Najee Harris, an Antioch High alum, checks his phone during dinner at his home in suburban Pittsburgh on Nov. 16. Harris, 23, carries heavy responsibilities for the Steelers during his rookie season in the NFL.

Steelers operating again Najee Harris, an Antioch High alum, checks his cellphone throughout dinner at his residence in suburban Pittsburgh on Nov. 16. Harris, 23, carries heavy tasks for the Steelers throughout his rookie season in the NFL.

Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The Chronicle

So it’s no coincidence Harris — who lived in a high-crime neighborhood in Antioch, taking what his mother seen as a treacherous every day stroll to high school — most well-liked a quiet, out-of-the-way Pittsburgh suburb. He acknowledged that’s partly a byproduct of his previous, when he actually didn’t have a quiet, out-of-the-way choice.

“It’s the world we reside in, how I used to be raised and the circumstances I’ve to cope with,” Harris stated. “I imply, it ain’t laborious to search out out if I’m gone or residence. Just look on TV each Sunday. People know the precise time I play they usually know after I’m going to be out of city. …

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