Iron Mike – Gruntworks contributing blogger
Bring it in shitheads. I know most of you miscreants are un-dedicated quitters eager to get the fuck out, spread your wings, and soar into the world to get rich selling veteran-themed T-Shirts or make viral YouTube videos about life in the service. Well… Your dreams are stupid and you’re probably going to fail. However, with all the new-age PC bullshit crippling our warfighting capacity I have half a mind to join you, but I’m pretty sure if I go back to college and have to sit through more transgender sensitivity indoctrination I’ll probably snap the neck of the next rainbow-painted sissyfag that cries about his “preferred pronouns”. Fuck your disdain for biology and the English language. I digress. Most of you heathens are here to do one or two tours in uniform and then get out to pursue something better in life, only you’re going to find that the discipline and responsibility you had beaten into your skulls in the service don’t translate well to the culture of the outside civilian world. There: feelings trump facts, meaningless platitudes are expected for underperformers, and you can’t tell a fuck-up that they’re fucked up or else they report you to some bitch in Human Resources that’s more likely to fire you for making them feel bad than to fire them for costing the company money. Chances are you aren’t prepared for life on the ‘outside’, which is why so many veterans spend a few years out and then reenlist. In the modern American society that exists beyond the military being a man is looked down on, victimhood is praiseworthy, and everyone is trying to reap the benefits of being all that they refuse to be. Trust me… you don’t want to go to school on the GI Bill right now and listen to some overweight green-haired 19-year-old rugmuncher that’s never done a push-up in her life lecture your English 101 class about the “oppression of women” because the high school prom king never found her half-shaved head attractive. Meanwhile you discover your University has a midnight Taco Bar and spend your first semester turning the ‘Freshman 15’ into the ‘Freshman 75’ because you decided to stop doing PT and lost your discipline; probably due to being surrounded by entitled college students that never worked a real job. I hope you don’t plan on majoring in the Liberal Arts either; your professors and peers will hate you because you represent the military they complain about daily – stick to Engineering fields or business, those guys tend to think explosions and machismo are cool.
Chances are you, particularly the junior enlisted, are going to get out and go try the civilian thing. The Army is stupid, the Marines are too restrictive, the Air Force doesn’t recognize my genius, and the Navy makes me watch gay orgies in the showers every day… You have your reason for getting out I’m sure. However, my experience tells me that you don’t have a fucking plan (or even a clue) for when you actually get out. That’s a recipe for failure. You have this idea in your head that the hard work you put in just stops. That you can coast on the work you put in already. That people will treat you better because you’re a veteran and jobs will just fall into your lap. Well you better delete that mentality program from your head computer right now, because you should never stop grinding if you want to survive out there with no chain of command or squad mates looking after you. That’s what today’s story is about; how to be a man that never stops grinding. Remember this: no matter what you do after the service, hard work and dedication equals success. NFL Pro-Bowler James Harrison is the living embodiment of that mindset… and he’s got more in common with your average Grunt than you might expect.
James Harrison is famous for a few things… Being the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise sack leader; a five-time All-Pro selection; the 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year; and a two-time Super Bowl Champion. You probably don’t know that he was a somewhat troubled kid from a large family in Akron, OH. His dad was a truck driver and his mom was raising 14 children, a difficult enough task with dad gone so often. James was the baby of the family and his mom didn’t want him to play football despite his significant athletic ability. After eventually convincing his mother to let him play, James excelled on the gridiron at both running back and linebacker. However, his maturity issues cost him severely several times. He was suspended for flipping off an opposing teams’ fans during a game, he was nearly expelled for shooting a BB gun in his locker room, and he lost out on recruitment opportunities from big-name schools like Nebraska, Ohio State, and Notre Dame due to his less than stellar academic performance and character issues on the field. He eventually attended Kent State University and walked on to the football team there. He was forced to sit his Freshman season for academic issues, but went on to be a starting linebacker for his remaining 3 seasons with the Golden Flashes. In his final collegiate game against Miami (OH), he would sack future Steelers teammate Ben Roethlisberger to seal a 24-20 Kent State win. He would go on to finish the 2001 season with 98 total tackles, 20 tackles for loss, and led the MAC conference with 15 sacks. He was voted First Team all Mid-American Conference and entered the NFL Draft.
This is that part where I said James Harrison has more in common with your average Grunt than you might think… He had maturity issues, a personal discipline problem, and too much raw talent to know what to do with. If he wanted to play in the NFL he was going to have to dig deep, grind hard, and make some personal life choices. Similarly, your average Grunt who enlisted out of high school and went off into the world an undisciplined, immature boot has a lot of these same issues when it comes to maximizing their potential; and when he wants to move up in leadership responsibility or his time in service is up, he has to make a choice… a choice about just how hard he’s prepared to grind to be successful. No one cares about someone who peaked in their early 20’s, especially since they didn’t peak very high. Right, Specialist?
James Harrison went undrafted in the 2002 NFL Draft. He was cut 7 times before he made a permanent roster, including being cut by the Rhein Fire of NFL Europe. Harrison dug in and gritted his teeth, he trained harder than before and studied the game better. In 2005, he was finally re-signed by Pittsburgh and started 3 games at linebacker when the previous starter was injured in an off-season weightlifting accident. That was all James needed to cement himself as a Hall of Fame contender. That year Pittsburgh would win Super Bowl XL and James would spend the next 7 years crushing opposing offenses. He took Pittsburgh to two more Super Bowls and garnered 5 Pro-Bowl selections. He was named the 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and picked off Arizona Cardinals’ QB Kurt Warner for a 100-yard interception and touchdown that helped seal Pittsburgh’s 27-23 win in Super Bowl XLIII. By 2012 Harrison was one of the most feared men in professional football… and he was also getting old.
In the 2011 and 2012 seasons, James Harrison did not play a full 16 games due to injuries. In 2012 the Steelers cut him citing salary cap restrictions and he briefly retired, but later signed with AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals for the 2013 season where he saw limited playing time before being cut and retiring again in 2014.
The sports writers were grinning, James Harrison – The Silverback, the Hitman, was done in the NFL. No way he would ever come back from that. He was 36 years old, practically ancient for a linebacker. He had a beef with the NFL commissioner who kept fining him for allegedly ‘dirty’ hits in the new kinder, gentler league. He would probably just sign a ceremonial 1-day contract with Pittsburgh and retire for good… Quarterbacks throughout the league sighed with relief. There was only one problem; no one had asked James Harrison if he was done yet. He wasn’t.
Not content to be a has-been, James trained harder than ever. He developed a new strength program and trained with weights daily to improve his power and stamina. He started working with trainers to improve his balance and coordination. He runs sprints daily and pushes an 1800-lb weight sled across a football field. He did and continues to do whatever it takes to push his body to the limit and maintain peak playing ability. While most of his teammates are enjoying their off-season relaxing, James is in the weight room or training at his home. His workouts are fucking insane. The man plays volleyball with a 20-pound medicine ball for Christ’s sake. Any rumors about performance enhancing drugs have been completely quelled by his beef with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell resulting in him being ‘randomly’ drug-tested up to 3 times a month every year. Off the field James Harrison became a controversial figure for returning his sons’ participation trophies, and act that infuriated throngs of activist parents. His justification for doing so was “I want to raise my sons to be men.” A statement that pissed off a lot of new-age liberals who want to raise their sons to be sissy boys that ‘explore their gender identity’ instead of learn the hard, tactical virtues of manhood through, competition, triumph and failure. “I came home to find out that my boys received two trophies for nothing, participation trophies! While I am very proud of my boys for everything they do and will encourage them till the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy. I’m sorry I’m not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I’m not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best…cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better…not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut u up and keep you happy.” Harrison posted to his Instagram page with the tag “Harrison Family Values”.
His workouts and his attitude carried him into another 3 seasons as a starter after his return to Pittsburgh, where he recorded 95 solo tackles, 43 assisted tackles, 15.5 sacks, 3 interceptions, and 5 pass break-ups. He continues to lead the Pittsburgh Steelers Defensive unit at the age of 39 and in 2017 he signed another 2-year extension to his contract with the team. He had gone from unwanted and undrafted rookie, to champion, to the most feared linebacker in the league, to old man, and then back to a defensive apex predator through nothing but hard work and a steel will. In the 2016 NFL Season Harrison was the oldest defensive player in the game, and he still dominated. In the AFC Wild Card game Harrison provided the pivotal play as he sacked Miami Dolphins QB Matt Moore and forced a fumble as Miami crept close to the Pittsburgh endzone at the half. A week later in the AFC Divisional round, Kansas City Left Tackle Eric Fisher found out how dangerous Harrison was… as he was dominated by Harrison all night which led to a critical ‘Holding’ call on a 2-point conversion in the 4th Quarter that sealed an 18-16 win for Pittsburgh. A 2017 poll of 43 professional sports writers ranked Harrison as the #1 Badass Player in the league and referred to him as the “Ageless Linebacker”. “Forget a dark alley; I wouldn’t want to meet him at church,” said Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. Harrison will continue to play in the NFL until he is at least 41 years old, some of the people he demolishes will be slightly over half his age. He will not stop grinding, and that’s what got him where he is and what makes him a goddamn future Hall of Famer.
Today’s lesson is that your life is not going to get easier just because you got out, or even got promoted. You only have the choice to get stronger, or fail. Every day that goes by needs to be spent improving yourself in some way; mentally, physically, intellectually, etc. You need to be a better, stronger man than you were yesterday and you need that steel will forged and honed by the years of hard work you put in already. You need to keep forging yourself as you transition into bigger and better things in your life, and that means never quitting and never taking a break. Whether you did a few years and are getting out to go to school, or are retiring after 23 and going to try and open your own small business; you won’t be successful if you take it easy. You didn’t join the Infantry because it was easy. You wanted to be a man of steel, and steel has to be forged from Iron and Fire. Never lose your discipline. Never stop training your mind and body because that’s the surest way to lose everything you already worked for. I’ve never met a fat stupid fuck with the drive to be successful. The Iron is in the weight room, the whetstone is in the classroom, the fire is in yourself; now go out in the world and continue to forge a sharpened man of steel.
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