In celebration of Black History Month, we take the time to recognize and reflect on the thoughts and contributions of members of the Steelers organization. Today, punter Pressley Harvin shares why Black History Month is important to him and his story of being one of only six Black punters in the history of the NFL.
For punter Pressley Harvin, Black History Month is about learning about those who came before him, understanding the history of the men and women who made strides to make life better for him and others just like him.
"Going back, looking at the history of Black History Month and the things that happened and the things that transpired to have where we are today, sometimes you have to take a step back and look at that history to really learn from it," said Harvin. "I really honor and recognize the month by always trying to find something that's fresh and new education wise. I always wanted to learn more about the Black heritage, Black culture.
"Just being a Black athlete, especially a Black punter, a Black specialist in the NFL, there hasn't been too many of us so just trying to make the road easier for the people behind me is my biggest thing."
And Harvin is spot on. There haven't been many Black punters in the history of the NFL and he is somebody who is opening doors for those who come after him, showing them what they can do.
The only Black punters in the NFL have been Greg Coleman (1977-88), Reggie Roby (1983-98), Rodney Williams (2001), Reggie Hodges (2005-12), Marguette King (2013-18) and Harvin (2021-present).
Harvin is the only active Black punter and getting to where he is today had its challenges.
"I have always been more of an underdog in football," said Harvin, who is making an impact in the community as well through the Steelers Social Justice program. "Whenever I have to prove myself, I have always had that underdog mentality. The biggest underdog factor is I am a Black punter, and you never see that much.
"Whenever I started kicking back in middle school, I always had that mentality that I am different and unique. That continued in high school. I had the mentality that I have to prove to people I can do this at a high level. I took it really personal. I had my ups and downs. Just getting into high school, being on the football team, coaches try to lean you in a direction. That was a direction I didn't agree with. That was the one time I had to tell a coach no, I don't want to do that. Usually, a coach will put you in a right position. That was the first time I told a coach no, I want to do this, not that. He told me flat out I wouldn't be good at it. I thought this coach doesn't believe in what I can do, let me show him I can do this."
It was a frustrating time for Harvin, one that pushed him to the edge, but never over the edge.
"I wanted to quit when I was younger because it wasn't common, I didn't have a coach that was behind me," said Harvin. "It was always my family and God that encouraged me to chase my dreams. Me and my family have a mentality that we don't quit. I kept that I don't quit mentality."
And it all paid off. In 2020, Harvin led the nation and set a Georgia Tech and ACC record with a 49-yard punting average. He was a unanimous first-team All-American, becoming only the third Georgia Tech player to earn that accomplishment, and winning the Ray Guy Award en route.
"It's definitely a huge honor," said Harvin. "It's a lot of hard work and sacrifice. During my career, it hasn't always been pretty. When the punter goes on the field, we aren't always doing well. That is where I try to help out as much as possible.
"I am not the stereotype size and race for a punter, but I do it with my ability. Being the first African American punter to win the Ray Guy Award, it's not just about my name on that trophy, it's about all of the punters who were before me, Greg Coleman, Reggie Roby, guys who paved the way for me to be in the same profession.
"If you have guys who put their heart and mind to something, they can do it."