Javon Hargrave On Rookie Year: “I Grew Up A Lot”

The nickname “J-Wobble” grew on Javon Hargrave throughout the year, maybe in the same way his performance on the field grew week-by-week. Heading into Year Two, he says he’s ready to take the next step forward.

Hargrave sat down with Steelers.com’s Missi Matthews to discuss his rookie year. There was the obvious jump to the NFL, especially coming from FCS South Carolina State, the quality of it all, but the quantity was also an adjustment for him, playing more football than he ever had before.

“I feel like I just played two seasons of college football. We only play 11 games of college. I just finished my 23rd game of the NFL. So it’s way longer than college. You have to really prepare yourself and take care of your body for that long ride.”

Luckily, Hargrave was in a locker room with enough veterans to learn how to do just that and no one is wiser than James Harrison.

“I talk to him some. Just ask him things, what he does to take care of his body. I don’t get in his way in the weight room though. Nobody is messing with Deebo in the weight room.”

He, like every other defensive linemen on the team, praised Cam Heyward’s leadership and involvement with the team, even after he was lost for the season. It was Heyward’s injury that put Hargrave into the spotlight and forced him to be an impact player.

“I had to grow up real quick. I had my ups and downs but ended up getting better over the course [of the season].”

Not that Hargrave didn’t want the challenge.

“I had big plans for myself coming into this situation. When my opportunity came, I just felt like I had to get better and seize that moment.”

His rookie year ended with 27 tackles, two sacks, and his first NFL touchdown, recovering a fumble in the end zone against the Cleveland Browns. He won the starting nose tackle job out of camp and became a key cog in the Steelers’ nickel defense, their majority personnel grouping, when Heyward went down.

He’s risen to the occasion and succeeded on every level. From one of the most dominant college careers for an interior defensive linemen, to a great Senior Bowl and Combine week, and now, to showing he can hang in the NFL. Hargrave says he knows what he has to do to build on that for 2017.

“I know my rookie year, I started picking up on things kinda late. Now, I just want to be able to study film more and be able to pick up on things the offense likes to do.”

I said it when writing about Stephon Tuitt but it’s worth repeating. With a healthy Heyward, the Steelers will have one of the best – maybe the best – three down front in the entire NFL.

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • Jaybird

    I love this guy. He’s going to break out this year. It might not be a popular idea, but I would have no problem getting another DL like this guy, a stoudt tweener with pass rushing skills. I don’t know if there are many out there in this draft , but I would love to get another one.

  • Darth Blount 47

    I’ve heard some people call Hargrave “J-Wobble.”

    But for me, he showed he is worthy of a more menacing nickname. So to me, he’s “GRAVEDIGGER.” And I’ll be watching as he grows into that name even more this year. There won’t be a Sophomore Slump for this guy. He handled himself extremely well, among grown men who are known as the “Big Uglies,” for a reason. Going constantly against Guards and Centers is no joke. There is no finesse to those brutes. And this kid showed he is carrying on the Big Snack tradition, well.

    I’d love for him to reach out to someone like Hampton to learn some nuances. And I’d give a quick call to Mean Joe as well, for some inspiration. Hargrave, with some more weight lifting and training, could become a decade long starter for us. We may be witnessing the beginning of something truly special. So glad the FO did their homework and pulled the trigger. And good on the guys at the Depot here, to get us all acquainted with Hargrave pre-draft last year. I had him on my mock draft in the contest, because I too saw something worthy. Let’s hope we have even more success with our selections this go round. Another couple of Defensive gems like him is exactly what we need. Plug and play guys who can make a name for themselves early!
    It’s guys like Gravedigger that get me excited for the draft!

  • pittfan

    +1,000. I’m real high on this kid. Alex’s last comment gave me goosebumps!

  • barry foster

    He definitely earn that name when he dug that patriot guard grave with club in the championship game

  • VinHuddle

    Yeah GraveDigger is much more ferocious sounding than J-Wobble.

  • Bob Loblaw

    He looks like a heavier Bell in this picture.

  • dany

    I like him having 2 nicknames. J-Wobble seems to fit his persona, a calm demeanor, a big jolly fella. But on the field, he’s an animal, the Gravedigger

  • Steve

    Alex – Great Article! Was just talking about Hargrave the other day. With Tuitt, Heyward and Hargrave, Steelers should be able to handle most anybody. In a nickle situation they can rotate and keep fresh. Hargrave shown her can play in the playoff, sacking Brady was the ultimate, sure wish it could have been more.

  • Alex Kozora

    Thanks, Steve!

  • Ryan Alderman

    Yeah, another impact lineman like this always will pay dividends. I like to think we will have just that with the return of a healthy Heyward.

  • Ryan Alderman

    Me, too!!

  • mokhkw

    Agree and there are a few DL in the mid & late rounds which are intriguing. Another DL like the 3 we have already would cover any injuries & allow for (hopefully) a real rotation.

    I hope we don’t return to the same situation as McLendon where he hardly received any snaps because Heyward & Tuitt played most of the time in a 2 man line.

  • Conserv_58

    Dan McCullers’ knickname should be Gravedigger, but, alas, he’s too soft in the head to have that moniker. I refer to him as, “Puddin’ Head”.

  • Conserv_58

    There is a DT/NT, I think from Utah, that is built Like Casey Hampton and whom could give the Steelers another option at NT.

    IMO, McCullers will never aspire to be anymore than what he is. Watching him play this past season was disappointing, to say the least. There is no reason at his size why he should be getting pushed around and controlled by offensive lineman. He apparently must be a slow learner because he doesn’t take what DL coach, John Mitchell teaches him on to the field. He still makes rookie mistakes and there is no excuse for that, not at this stage of his development.

    Every year since he was drafted he says the same things when asked what he needs to do to improve. He says he wants to lose more weight, he wants to work on improving his technique, he wants to work on getting his pad level lower and he wants to be better at his assignments. That’s a troubling comment to me because, by now, he should have achieved most of those goals. Furthermore, he should be entrenched as the starting NT, but he isn’t.