NFL: Local hero Hargrave headed to the big one

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 31, 2023

By Mike London

SALISBURY — Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Javon Hargrave is headed for his first Super Bowl, and those who have known him for a while, and even those who have never met him, are ecstatic for him.

A gentle giant at 305 pounds, he has always comported himself with class and has never forgotten his roots.

The youngest member of the Salisbury-Rowan Hall of Fame, Hargrave will turn 30 five days before the Eagles play in the Super Bowl on Feb. 12 against the Kansas City Chiefs at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

It seems like only yesterday, but it was a dozen years ago when Hargrave was a bully-ball high school power forward with quite a bit of Charles Barkley in him. He played for the North Rowan Cavaliers and was one of the key players on a talented 1A state champion basketball team.

Andrew Mitchell’s squad went 27-5 in 2010-11, Hargrave’s senior year, prevailed in a double-overtime game for the ages against Winston-Salem Prep to survive the regional and rallied to beat Pender in the title game.

Hargrave averaged 10.5 points, with a high of 24, and was the No. 2 scorer on a balanced team. He scored 336 points as a senior, 903 for a strong career.

Swimming was his hidden talent and basketball was the sport he loved most, but he stopped growing at 6-foot-2 and was smart enough to know it was time to focus on football.

North Rowan football wasn’t nearly as good as basketball during his high school days, but Hargrave managed to make a name for himself for the Cavaliers during a time in which West Rowan and Salisbury had fantastic programs and were winning championships.

Among other things, Hargrave set Rowan County records for fumble recoveries in a season (8) and career (18).

He starred in all-star competition and was voted defensive MVP of the East-West Game the summer after he graduated from North, but he was never heavily recruited and signed with South Carolina State.

His work ethic pushed him to stardom and future Hall of Fame induction in Orangeburg, S.C. He became one of the greats in program history, amassing 37 career sacks.

He was honored as HBCU Defensive Player of the Year in 2014 and 2015.

Philadelphia Eagles nose tackle Javon Hargrave (97) looks on during the NFL divisional round playoff football game against the New York Giants, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

He proved himself in postseason all-star showcases against the athletes from the bigger schools and was the third-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2016. That sounds like a high pick, but there were 88 men picked ahead of him.

He received a substantial contract, gave the Steelers four solid seasons, became a free agent and signed a really lucrative contract with Philadelphia three years ago. That one was for $39 million.

Hargrave’s work ethic hasn’t diminished despite his overwhelming success and he has given the Eagles three exceptional seasons. He was a Pro Bowler in 2022 and certainly could have been again this year.

He had 11 sacks in the regular season, including three in one game against the Houston Texans. He had a mind-boggling 13-tackle game against the Washington Commanders. A 13-tackle game for an interior lineman is insane.

His first sack of the postseason occurred on Sunday, as Philadelphia beat San Francisco 31-7 and romped for the third straight time in the postseason. A sack by Philadelphia’s pass rush injured San Francisco QB Brock Purdy and made the conference championship game much easier than expected.

Hargrave’s inside pressure has been a key component of a pass rush that now has 78 sacks. That’s the third-highest total in NFL history, four behind the 1984 Chicago Bears, who hold the record.

Now Philadelphia heads to its first Super Bowl since the Eagles beat the New England Patriots in 2017.

It’s possible it will be Hargrave’s final game with the Eagles. This is the last year of his contact.

He doesn’t worry much about next season, though. He is at the top of his game and will command at least one more massive contract, either from the Eagles or from a new organization.

If he does enter the free-agent market, there will be no shortage of suitors and no shortage of dollars.