Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris revealed that he bumped heads with Alabama coach Nick Saban throughout his decorated collegiate career.
During the latest episode of The Pivot podcast, which also featured an interview with Steelers teammate T.J. Watt, Harris told hosts and former NFL players Ryan Clark, Channing Crowder and Fred Taylor that Saban didn't "understand the type of dude" he was when he arrived at Tuscaloosa and felt "belittled" the seven-time national champion coach's tactics.
“I’m not the type of dude to sit back and just, like, let somebody just talk to me, I guess, in a way and not expect me to say something,” Harris said (h/t AL.com). “I can take coaching, but there’s just a certain type of line when you cross it’s like, ‘I’m a man, you ain’t gonna fucking talk to me like that, bro.’ So I guess that, he wasn’t used to having somebody talk back to him in a way.
“So he said something to me, blah, blah, blah and I’m like, ‘Motherf***** who are you talking to like that?’ I was kind of looking, like, ‘Who the fuck you think you’re talking to like that?’ I was like, ‘Look at, Coach, coach me, man. You can coach me. But don’t ever think you’re more than a coach to me. Don’t try to, like, belittle me.’ I felt belittled.
“So we had a couple arguments, man. Another incident, like, I always got into fights there. So he’s like, ‘Goddamnit, 22, you’re always fighting. Like, it’s always you -- you can do it again. You’re leaving practice.’ So I’m like, fuck this deal. We just bumped heads a lot.”
Harris, who ranked as the No. 1 running back and No. 2 overall prospect for the 2017 national recruiting cycle before arriving at Alabama, said his last incident with Saban resulted with him leaving school "for like two weeks."
“It was COVID year, and I came back to school,” Harris said. “It was our last incident. Imagine all four years, we kind of like, bumped heads, in a good way. Then I guess COVID year -- last incident happened and I left school.
“I’m like, ‘Man, I’m not messing with y’all. I’m gone.’ So I left school for like two weeks. Yeah, people didn’t know that. I left school for like two weeks.”
Harris said he met with Saban after their final clash and "from that point on, he took his time out of the day to really understand who I am," adding that the've been "rock solid" ever since.
Harris didn't specify when the incident took place during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, in which he played in all 13 games during the Tide's undefeated run to a national championship, leading all FBS running backs with 26 rushing touchdowns and ranking third nationally with 1,466 rushing yards -- which led all SEC players -- winning the Doak Walker Award and being selected as a Unanimous All-American, as well as a first-team All-SEC running back.
The Martinez, California native was selected by the Steelers at No. 24 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft and was selected to the Pro Bowl, recording 1,200 rushing yards, 74 receptions for 467 yards and 10 total touchdowns (seven rushing, three receiving) during his rookie season.