On NFL draft day, Najee Harris returns to Bay Area homeless shelter where he spent part of childhood

Apr. 30—Hours before the Pittsburgh Steelers selected him in the first round of the NFL draft, Najee Harris held a pizza party for kids at an East Bay homeless shelter where the former Antioch High School star himself spent part of his childhood.

Harris posed for a picture Thursday with the pizza delivery driver, changed into a white turtle neck and coat in the parking lot and then made the children inside the Richmond shelter part of his special day.

"It was really emotional for my mom," the running back told KRON's Kylen Mills. "Almost like she was crying in a way because we have a lot of memories here. That was a time in our life when we were really low. It brought back a lot of memories of what we were going through at the time — for me, too.

"Seeing the Richmond house brings back a lot of memories of me playing basketball there, people there. It was an emotional thing for us. Just doing this makes me and my family feel a lot more better."

After the pizza party, Harris went to Marshawn Lynch's restaurant in Emeryville for another draft event.

Harris, who would become Alabama's all-time leading rusher after leaving Antioch, waited some three hours before his name was finally called.

Now he's a Steeler.

When asked by reporters Thursday if he already feels pressure to boost a Pittsburgh running game that was the league's worst last season, Harris said, "I understand that they did finish last in rushing last year. But I feel through practice and hard work, I feel like that can be changed.

"I don't feel (any) pressure at all, to be honest with you. I've been put in a lot of situations with that type of stuff put on me, especially in college. The NFL is different, of course. But I feel like there's nothing I can't do in time, for sure."

Harris' draft party included the presence of a future opponent, Baltimore Ravens defensive back Marcus Peters, a former McClymonds High star.

"I'm in Oakland with a good friend of mine, Marcus," Harris told reporters on a video conference call. "He told me we're going to be playing twice a year. He knew something before me."

Harris said it was important to spend his big night with close friends.

"This is where I'm from," he said. "I'm not from Oakland. I am from the Bay Area. I've been raised all across the Bay Area. Draft day, only a certain amount of people could be there. I have a lot of people that helped me out, helped me get where I am at. I wanted to make sure all of them could enjoy the special moment with me."

Antioch Panther's Najee Harris (2) talks to his mother Tianna Hicks on the field after playing against the De La Salle Spartans at De La Salle High School in Concord, Calif., on Friday, Sept. 22, 2016. De La Salle defeated Antioch 28-21. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)


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