Michigan State's Darien Harris relishes trip home

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — Considering Darien Harris played high school football just down the road from Maryland, it's no surprise the Michigan State linebacker will have a large cheering section Saturday.

The junior who starred at DeMatha Catholic High hit up teammates for tickets, and when the schedule came out and had Saturday's matchup on it, his family bought a block of tickets.

The demand was so high, Harris said, his family was told they couldn't get any more.

"It got to the point where they told us we couldn't have any more because we were buying so many of them," Harris joked. "But it's definitely exciting for me and for my family that couldn't make the trip here to see me play."

It's a game Harris wasn't sure would happen when he committed to Michigan State. At that point, the idea of Maryland leaving the Atlantic Coast Conference for the Big Ten wasn't on the radar, which meant the odds were against the Spartans playing close enough to Harris' home.

But when expansion occurred, all that changed.

"I got calls obviously first from my parents and they were excited," Harris said. "Then the calls from my friends started rolling in, so we figured we had to see the schedule and where we played them. Once we found out we were going to Maryland we knew instantly tons of people would want to go.

"I was hoping that maybe we could schedule Maryland as an out of conference game. Then we got the news that they got added to the Big Ten, so I was definitely excited about that, as were my family and friends from there."

Playing at a power like DeMatha meant a future in Division I was a possibility for Harris. He said there were 15 teammates that received scholarships.

"You kind of learn to wait your turn, which was good coming into a Division I college," Harris said. "You learn hard work, you learn the values of camaraderie and teamwork and team chemistry and playing against talent, like we had in that conference. It's always good to have older guys that are the same talent level as you doing the same things as you to help you along your journey."

It won't only be a homecoming for Harris. Defensive line coach Ron Burton is from Highland Springs, Va., a couple hours away. And as a player at North Carolina (1982-86), Burton has played at Maryland.

But as much as he will enjoy seeing people he knows, he's keeping his focus on the field.

"I think I'm around 21 tickets," Burton said.

"There are still people wanting to come. It feels good to be able to do that. A lot of extra calls this week."

It also will be a recruiting trip for Burton.

He knows the area well and recruits the East for Michigan State.

"They do a great job in their high school football and they have really grown," he said. "And we have potential kids that we would love to recruit in that area, that's for sure, in 2015, 2106, 2017 class. So that is a plus. That's why we're going back to the East Coast."

Michigan State at Maryland

Kickoff: 8 p.m. Saturday, Byrd Stadium, College Park, Maryland

TV/radio: Big Ten/WJR

Records: No. 12 Michigan State 7-2 (4-1 Big Ten), Maryland 6-3 (3-2)

Line: Michigan State by 12

Did you know? It's the first meeting between the teams since 1950 (Maryland 34-7)