‘Put Your Big Man Pants On and Handle Business’: TJ Harvison Ready to Work at Pitt
T.J. Harvison is a health nut. So, of course, Pat Narduzzi felt like he would get along very well with Michael Stacchiotti once he arrived on campus.
Harvison, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound running back from Bowdon High near the Alabama-Georgia border, arrived at Pitt last month, and in the six weeks since, he’s certainly listened to Stacchiotti. But if there’s anything he’s taken from coach Stacc so far, it’s embracing the moments to build relationships with his new teammates.
So, how has he been bonding with his fellow early enrollees? “I’ve been whooping them in Madden,” Harvison said last week at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
“T.J. done got me a couple of times, I’m not gonna lie,” Isaiah Neal admitted last week. “He does this quad formation, and I don’t know how to stop it. I’m not a big Madden guy. … I’ll play it because it’s bonding. We’re sitting there talking, he’s talking trash, I’m talking when I do something.”
But while there are times when Harvison will play Madden and just hang out with some of the freshmen, guys like Neal, BJ Williams and Braylan Lovelace, he’s here to work. He didn’t decide to enroll early to come play video games after all.
In deciding to leave Bowdon and enroll early at Pitt, he knew he had to put his big man pants on and handle his business.
It’s a crowded running backs room ahead of Harvison, as Rodney Hammond Jr., C’Bo Flemister and Derrick Davis form a 1-2-3 punch, and Daniel Carter serves as a short yardage back, but he’s not in a hurry either. He wants to get ahead of the curve this spring and put himself in position to contribute when he’s able.
“I feel as if I keep learning the playbook and doing what I need to be doing, then my time will come,” Harvison said. “Even if it’s not this season then for sure next season.”
The adjustment to the college level, hitting the weight room and working on the field, hasn’t been too hard. It’s learning what he’s supposed to be doing in the offense at this point, but he’s been helped along by the veterans every step of the way over the last six weeks.
“When we went over plays today, at one point I was going too fast with my footwork and they just tried to tell me slow down, always press the hole and make the cut,” Harvison said. Walkthroughs and individual drills on Wednesdays have helped immensely in picking up what he should be doing and when in the offensive scheme.
He won’t have the chance to learn from Israel Abanikanda, who is preparing for the 2023 NFL Draft, but he certainly watched a lot of Abanikanda last season — along with former Pitt stars like James Conner and Tony Dorsett.
“What impressed me the most was the way (Abanikanda) finished his runs,” Harvison said. “Just doing the extra stuff like making people miss, using his offhand and finishing through the end zone.”
Harvison feels his own ability to run through contact, his leg drive and the ability to keep his feet moving to attack defenders before they can hit him, compares favorably to Abanikanda’s. And he certainly it proved on the field as a senior at Bowdon.
Bowdon rolled to a 14-1 season, capped by a GHSA Class-1A Division II championship and Harvison led the way with 2,026 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns on 250 carries (8.1 yards per attempt), and he racked up 256 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 12 receptions.
He also added 48 tackles (33 solo), four tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and a recovery defensively.
“I feel like my game is speed, elusiveness and power,” Harvison said. “So, I try to mix all three of those in one and be the best version of myself as a running back.”
He may not be the veteran running back who racked up 2,000 yards and led his squad to a state championship now, just a small fish in a big pond at the collegiate level but winning will always be his main focus. He’s going to learn from the older guys, grow as a player in the meantime and wait for the chance to be the leader he was for Bowdon.
Harvison is ready to continue to hear Andre Powell’s jokes during team meetings, watch and learn from the older guys in the room and grow his mind and body on the South Side practice fields.
Pittsburgh, as a whole, is a new experience. But it’s a very chill city, plenty of places to eat, to hang out, to watch movies. But Harvison’s favorite place to eat so far? Moe’s.
He’s a Moe’s over Chipotle kind of guy.
While 8 Power 5 offers suggests that Harvison has good recruiting pedigree, what may be just as important is that he sounds like he’s focused on working hard and taking care of his body along with having a realistic assessment of his situation.
Ideally, he’ll redshirt this year and get some playing time in 2024, though could play well this year if injuries force him into action.
Kind of nice the NCAA allows 4 games and still keep redshirt. Allows guys to see the field and get real reps without losing valuable playing time later in their careers.
Agreed, I remember when Ben DiNucci lost his helmet and Kenny had to enter the game for one play, thereby losing his redshirt…terrible rule.
Just me.. but does this kid remind you of Izzy?