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Harris stays on course at Maryland

November 17, 2005|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Milton Harris is a product of guidance and direction.

Listening to both influences has made him the person and the football player he is today.

When it comes to direction, the University of Maryland defensive back has looked to his parents, his cousin - former Maryland defensive back Madieu Williams - and coach Ralph Friedgen. It has turned Harris from walk-on transfer into impact starter in the Terrapins' secondary.

But when it comes to direction, Harris gets his game plan from a higher power.

"I like to consider myself a spiritual person," Harris said. "Before I transferred, I prayed to God and asked if this was the right move for me. When I came here and they told me that I might be a backup and might not ever start here, I just worked and put my faith in Him to make sure His will would be done."

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Harris' convictions and talents have put him in Maryland's starting defensive backfield. Harris reaped some of the rewards of staying the course last Saturday when he collected 16 tackles in a 33-30 overtime victory over North Carolina and was named Atlantic Coast Conference defensive back of the week.

It was a long and winding road to get Harris to this point.

He transferred from Delaware State after the 2002 season on a suggestion from Williams, who starred in Maryland's backfield in 2003 and is now playing for the Cincinnati Bengals.

"I walked on at Delaware State and I started for two years on both sides of the ball," Harris said. "I was on a partial scholarship. I was supposed to get a full one, but I didn't get it.

"Madieu heard about that and said that wasn't right. He told me to transfer to Maryland because I would get a better education and more exposure. I agreed with him."

Using Williams' experience at Maryland and his own moral compass, Harris slowly worked his way up the Terps' depth chart.

But it became a matter of first things first.

Williams finished his degree in family studies last spring, despite Friedgen's well-meaning requests to slow down.

"He's a very prideful kid," Friedgen said. "He told me he was going to graduate and I told him to wait a little. I was going to have a scholarship opening up and said at least let me pay for it. I told him to take three hours and then finish it off with the scholarship."

Harris, as usual, stayed the course and finished like planned.

"I told my parents I could hold off and wait," Harris said. "They told me that it was too much of a risk. What would happen if I didn't get the scholarship? My parents wanted me to have the degree to rely on for the future. It was something I could lean on. ... I got it done early more for them."

Harris became a starter in a Maryland secondary which lost its top six players to graduation. He has been part of the steady improvement of the Terps, which isn't totally reflected in their present 5-4 record.

For Harris, though, last Saturday's game was a surprise, but proof that he had chosen the right direction.

"I was surprised I had 16 tackles," he said. "I thought I would get three picks before I had 16 tackles. Someone asked me how many tackles I thought I had and I said, 'Eight or nine.' When they said I had 16, I was blown away. It was definitely validation that I made the right move."

His beliefs haven't let him down yet.

"I feel that everything happens for a reason," Harris said. "You have to live life and trust God. He knew what He wanted me to do. He didn't want me to transfer here to be a backup."

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