PITTSBURGH -- Najee Harris wasn’t planning on getting into the ring at the All Elite Wrestling event in Pittsburgh on Wednesday night.
But when the Steelers running back met professional wrestler Britt Baker, a Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, native and Steelers fan, at the practice facility earlier in the week, he started devising a plan.
“I was upstairs talking to a couple coaches about some guys in the draft, and then I ran into her,” Harris told ESPN on Thursday. “We were talking, and I was like, ‘When do y’all have a match?’ She said 'tomorrow,' and I was like, shoot, let me pull up. And then I went.”
Harris, who’s back in Pittsburgh for the start of the Steelers’ voluntary workouts, got a call from Baker the next day saying she was interested in having him and tight end Pat Freiermuth come out as a part of her entrance. Harris walked out behind Baker brandishing a giant Terrible Towel flag, while Freiermuth waved a smaller Terrible Towel.
“We were just thinking up stuff on the fly after that,” said Harris, who added he watched wrestling with his friends growing up. “I was like, ‘Shoot, let me grab this flag right here, then. Let me walk out, and I’ll walk behind you like you’re the champion.’”
Once Baker won her match, Harris and Freiermuth jumped the ring while the wrestler started trash-talking her future opponents. After Baker finished, Harris took the mic and prepared to cut his own wrestling promo. But the event organizers quickly turned it off and went to a commercial break.
“They were smart enough to cut the mic off, that’s what happened,” Harris said with a laugh. “I was gonna say some s---. I grabbed it because she was walking away, and I took it out of her hand. I started saying stuff. But they did the right thing and turned off the mic.”
Thursday morning, Harris traded the mic for a whistle and coached a group of seventh and eighth graders at Greenfield Elementary through an obstacle course as part of a Kellogg's Frosted Flakes Mission Tiger event. The company announced a donation to help 38,000 Pittsburgh Public School middle schoolers participate in sports, including equipment for Greenfield’s co-ed flag football team.
#Ad Always good to be home, especially when I get to bring a surprise for the kids. Today me and Tony the Tiger are donating game-changing equipment to the athletes @PPSnews from @frosted_flakes... Can't wait to hit the field with these kids. Let's see what they got!— Najee Harris (@ohthatsNajee22) April 21, 2022
This time a year ago, Harris was preparing for the NFL draft and hosted a draft party at the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program, one of the shelters where he and his family lived in the Bay Area. This year, Harris is taking his draft-day plans international.
Harris is traveling to Mexico, designated as the Steelers’ international home marketing area last year, for a tour of the capital city.
He’ll also host a draft day party there, where he'll announce the Steelers’ fourth-round pick.
It’ll be Harris’ first trip out of the country.
“We’re going around Mexico City for two, three days,” said Harris, who just got his passport last week. “We’re just kicking it, seeing the culture. It’s crazy. It’s going to be fun.”
Before his trip, Harris returned to Pittsburgh, where he's been for about a week, after an offseason training stint in Houston. He took three weeks off after his 10-touchdown, 1,200-yard rookie season and resumed training after the Super Bowl. He slowly got back into the groove, working with a physical therapist to exercise specific muscles that don’t get attention in the weight room before transitioning to the rest of his work.
“Three weeks doesn’t sound like that much now that I’m saying it, but it felt like a lot,” Harris said of his break. “It felt like a lot when I was chillin. If I have a heavy workload year, then I take a good amount of breaks off. Like just chillin, relaxing my body, sleeping a lot more.”
He also spent some of the offseason getting to know new Steelers quarterback Mitch Trubisky.
“Right when we picked him up and he signed, I flew out there that day from Houston,” Harris said. “I was there for at least 8 hours to chill with him and chop it up with him. We exchanged numbers, and we’ve been talking ever since. We were with each other in Florida and we’re here now with each other.
“... Mitch is really cool. He’s open to everything. He’s trying to understand who he has around him with players. Just how things are. He’s embracing his role pretty good. He has an opportunity to play, so he’s embracing that.”
Harris said the Steelers’ braintrust kept him informed about their free agency plans, and he even helped them sign cornerback Levi Wallace, a fellow Alabama product.
“They called me when they confirmed they got (Trubisky),” Harris said. “All throughout it, they kept me in the loop of who they were getting.”