TJ Harvison is a health nut. So, of course, Pat Narduzzi felt he would get along very well with Michael Stacchiotti as soon as 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 within six weeks, he certainly listened to Stacchiotti. But if there’s one thing he’s taken from coach Stacc so far, it’s that he embraces bonding moments with new teammates.
So how does he keep up with his fellow early enrollees? “I blow them away in Madden,” Harvison said last week at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
“TJ got me a few times, not gonna lie,” Isaiah Neal admitted last week. “He’s doing 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 a tie-in. We sit there and talk, he talks trash, I talk when I do something.”
But while there will be times when Harvison will play Madden and just hang out with freshmen like Neal, BJ Williams and Braylan Lovelace, he’s here to work. After all, he didn’t decide to sign up early to play video games.
When he decided to leave Bowdon and enroll early at Pitt, he knew he had to put on his big man pants and manage his business.
Rodney Hammond Jr., C’Bo Flemister and Derrick Davis form a 1-2-3 punch, and Daniel Carter serves as the tight end, but it’s a crowded running back room ahead of Harvison, but he’s in no rush either. He wants to step up this spring and put himself in position to contribute when he can.
“I feel like if I keep learning the playbook and doing what I’m supposed to do, then my time will come,” Harvison said. “Even if it’s not this season, next season is for sure.”
Adjusting to the college level, hitting the weight room and working on the field wasn’t too difficult. At this point, he’s learning what he needs to do on offense, but he’s had the veterans help him every step of the way over the last six weeks.
“When I reviewed plays today, at one point I was going too fast with my feet and they tried to tell me to slow down, always squeeze the hole and cut,” Harvison said. Walk-throughs and individual drills on Wednesdays have helped him a lot in understanding what he needs to do and when in the offensive scheme.
He won’t have a 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 (Abanikanda) finishing his runs,” Harvison said. “Just boring people, getting ready and doing extra things like getting through the end zone.”
Harvison’s ability to run through contact, his footwork, and his ability to get his feet on defenders before he can get on the attack has drawn comparisons to Abanikanda. And he certainly proved it on the field as a senior at Bowdon.
Bowdon rolled to a 14-1 season that ended with the 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 had 256 receiving yards and two sacks. 12 receiving touchdowns.
He also added 48 tackles (33 solo), four tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery on defense.
“I feel like my game is speed, elusiveness and power,” Harvison said. “So I’m trying to mix those three into one and be the best version of myself as a running back.”
He may not be a veteran 2,000-yard rusher leading his team 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 will learn from the older guys, while developing as a player and waiting for his chance to become the leader he is for Bowdon.
Harvison is ready to hear Andre Powell’s jokes during team meetings, watch and learn from the older kids in the room, and develop his mind and body on the South Side practice fields.
Pittsburgh, as a whole, is a new experience. But it’s a very cool city, there are many places to eat, hang out, watch movies. And Harvison’s favorite place to eat so far? Moe’s.
He’s a Moe’s over Chipotle kind of guy.