Not long before being chosen as the first-round draft pick by National Football League to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday, running back Najee Harris returned to the very homeless shelter that he and his family once lived.
“There was a time I needed a helping hand. They gave us an opportunity to get back on our feet. So it is my job to give back,” the star athlete said.
Current residents at the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program, also known as GRIP, held a draft watch party in the young man’s honor. Harris didn’t just stop by to say hello, he also provided the food for the party.
“A lot of memories happened. This one stood out,” Harris said.
Harris was in middle school when he stayed at GRIP before his family eventually moved to Antioch.
“This is one of the most amazing return stories I’ve heard,” said the organization’s executive director Kathleen Sullivan. She said the shelter just wanted to celebrate Harris, but he insisted on picking up the tab.
“Just imagine being raised to have empathy and give back. And he has obviously been raised with that mindset the whole time,” Sullivan said.
Before Harris became a top college running back at the University of Alabama, he graduated from Antioch High School. He has run the most yards in Bay Area high school history.
Antioch High School Principal Louie Rocha wore Harris’s college jersey to school on Thursday.
“Whenever he is in town he comes back to visit the school, to visit the staff and talk with students. He is someone who values who have been there for him. That’s what I love about him,” said Rocha.
His high school assistant football coach said no one worked harder than Harris or was more humble.
“He was extremely shy when he got here. And it is really just the last couple of years people have been able to see his personality,” said Mike Wisecarver.
But as high as Harris has climbed he has not forgotten where he started
“I feel like I’m giving back. There are other ways I’m going to do that. This is a start,” he said.