This past weekend, a couple of Pro Bowlers returned to the place where they got their start. Antonio Gates of the San Diego Chargers and James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers were among 8 athletes enshrined into the Kent State Hall of Fame. This honor is really an achievement for both athletes seeing as how their career paths were not exactly text book.
James Harrison did not receive a scholarship to play football at Kent State. He was being eyed up by some big time programs out of high school, but got into some trouble that made the bigger schools avoid him. When getting to Kent State he earned a spot on the team as a walk on and played there from 1999-2001. After Kent State he was not drafted but picked up via free agency by the Pittsburgh Steelers. From 2002 to 2004 he went between the Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens and the Steelers actually cut him 3 times before having him back. Through hard work and determination to get down defensive schemes, Harrison became the linebacker he knew he could. He became the player everyone saw in Super Bowl Bowl XLIII with that 100 yard pick six at the end of the half.
Antonio Gates, on the other hand, did not even play organized football in college. Instead, he dominated as a power forward for the Kent State basketball team. He also played at Eastern Michigan before landing at Kent State. He was originally recruited to play linebacker at Michigan State by then coach Nick Saban, but Gates wanted to go somewhere he could play both basketball and football. Realizing he could not do that, he chose the sport he loved which was basketball. Gates was an integral part of the 2002 Elite Eight run the men’s basketball team went on. They also won the MAC Championship that year and he took them to the championship game the year after that. After college Gates, like Harrison, was picked up as an undrafted free agent by the San Diego Chargers. Gates found himself playing for a professional football team and he hadn’t even played football since high school. He was just a freak of an athlete.
Both players along with Meagan Class, Veronique Drouin, John Faulstick, Charles Hankton, Jeff Horvath and Travis Miller were honored with a ceremony Saturday afternoon at the Kent State Ballroom in the Student Center. They were also recognized at halftime of the men’s basketball game against Miami. Gates’ number #44 was retired as well. It was hung next to his 2002 Elite Eight teammates #10 Demetric Shaw, #12 Andrew Mitchell & #24 Trevor Huffman.