Following a spectacular touchdown against South Carolina last season, Alabama running back Najee Harris ran to the back of the end zone, straightened his posture with his left arm outstretched parallel to the ground and his right arm in the air.
It was a clear homage to U.S. women’s national soccer team star Megan Rapinoe, who flashed the pose after a pair of goals in the World Cup quarterfinals against France that year.
Sixteen months later, Harris is preparing with the top-ranked Crimson Tide for a Rose Bowl and College Football Playoff semifinal matchup against Notre Dame, while Rapinoe has continued her leading role as an activist-athlete since leading the U.S. to 2019 World Cup title.
In a news conference Tuesday, Harris was asked about his affinity for Rapinoe, and he obliged:
“Really all the stuff she stands up for,” Harris said. “She’s a feminist and how the females, how women in the world get treated unfairly and how they get paid different and different stuff than men. She really stands up for all that. I like how she does that. And obviously the social injustice that happens, she plays a part in all that.
“Her standing up, not listening to all the naysayers out there and really just standing up for what she believes in, it’s motivating and inspirational…
“I really look up to her for what she does outside of sports.”
Both Rapinoe and Harris are from California, Harris pointed out, and he noticed that she listened to the late rapper Nipsey Hussle, who is one of Harris’ favorite artists.
The cross-gender admiration, even for athletes, may be uncommon, Harris realized.
“Not too many males will say they look up to a woman nowadays,” he said. “But I look up to her, just for what she does outside of sports.”
As Harris’ praise of Rapinoe began circulating online, she caught wind of it and offered some Twitter encouragement.
“Roll Tide!!!!! ( did I do it right?) Be Great, get those (roses) and hurdle someone for me!” she wrote.
Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.