Just hours before the 2021 NFL draft started on April 29, and before he became a first-round pick, Najee Harris and his mom made a stop at a draft party at the California homeless shelter his family had lived in when he was 12.
The Bay Area’s Greater Richmond Interfaith Program (GRIP) shelter had provided a place for Harris, his mom and his four siblings until they could find a permanent home. Harris never forgot that GRIP had helped with shelter for his family and mentors for him to look up to during difficult times.
“That little time we had helped my family out to find another place to stay, so just giving back to communities and giving back to places like this means a lot to me,” Harris told ABC 7 News.
The former University of Alabama running back ended up becoming the 24th pick, to the Pittsburgh Steelers, during the 2021 NFL draft.
Harris and his mom, Tianna Hicks, brought pizza, wings and salad for the shelter’s residents and staff, as well as gift bags and cupcakes for the children. He took some time to talk with the kids as well, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
“I wanted to make sure that I could give back to the community and show them if y’all still need anything, I’m never too big or too whatever to help you guys out,” Harris said.
For him, the party wasn’t about celebrating his success. It was to honor the program that served his family in the past and the many families currently residing there.
“It was really emotional for my mom, almost as if she was crying in a way,” he told KRON 4 News. “Because like I said, we have a lot of memories here.”
KRON reporter Kylen Mills tweeted an interview with Harris at the shelter:
Whatever team drafts Alabama's Najee Harris is getting a special person. Today he threw a draft party for kids at the homeless shelter where he lived for several years growing up. He told me it was emotional the first time he went back to visit. @kron4news #NFLDraft #RollTide pic.twitter.com/JadBIFh4pd
— Kylen Mills (@KylenMills) April 30, 2021
GRIP Executive Director Kathleen Sullivan said Harris’ story and his return to the shelter is a prime example of resilience.
“Just to see him as a grown man, with this kind of opportunity for him today, and to know that he lived in this shelter — among many other places their family’s had to move around and lived as a homeless family — just speaks to that anything is possible,” she told ABC7.