Harrell Now a "Spartan Dawg"

As the recruiting game in the press played around him, T.J. Harrell knew for awhile where he wanted to take his football talents. Wednesday, he officially became a member of Michigan State's 2014 recruiting class giving Mark Dantonio another high level player to mold.

The recruiting process was fun for Tampa (Fla.) Catholic standout T.J. Harrell. Since his sophomore year, Harrell was grabbing the attention of college coaches from across the country. In the end, Michigan State won out over his two other favorites.

"It was depressingly hard," said Harrell. "However, I ended up choosing Michigan State. First it was Georgia as I went on the visit and was showed major love. Then it was Louisville and then it was Michigan State."

While fans may feel official visits are key in earning a pledge, Harrell debunked those theories as he took his Spartans official visit early in the process.

"It wasn't really about the official visits," he said. "All the official visits were fun and they all show you good things. But for me, it was all about the Michigan State coaching staff as they offered me my sophomore year and how they stuck with me throughout the entire process.

"Georgia offered me as a running back my junior year, but they didn't really speak with me until they got Coach (Jeremy) Pruitt. The same could be said about Louisville as they got a new staff.

"Then it was the family ties to Michigan State and how they really showed a lot of love with the family things and I really liked that."

Just as the Spartans show on the field the determination to not be defeated, they took the same approach in recruiting Harrell.

"It was definitely a process," Harrell stressed. "One thing about Michigan State, even though I was showing a lot of schools love by saying Louisville was my number one or Georgia was my number one, Michigan State always stayed in my hip pocket behind the scenes always calling me even when other schools were ahead of them.

"Then I also had my cousin (Jeremy Ware) in my ear telling me not to forget about State. He would say don't forget about that Green and that White as you know what you can do up there."

Leading the Spartans charge was defensive backs coach Harlon Barnett.

"Coach Barnett and I have had a relationship ever since he found out Jeremy Ware was my cousin," he said. "So when he found out, he had a personal bond with me. Talking with him throughout the years and seeing him has made a strong bond between us.

"At my school right now, we have someone we call Papa Bear. He's a coach that is like a father to me and is always going to be there for me no matter what. I can go to his house, go to his church and he'll always have food for me if I want it. That is what Coach Barnett is for me. He's another Papa Bear."

While Barnett may be Harrell's new Papa Bear, the Spartans coaching staff may soon be fighting over what side of the ball the Florida native lines up on.

"Right now, Coach (Mark) Dantonio wants me as a running back from what I understood," Harrell explained. "The rest of the staff wants to bring me in as an outside backer or strong safety."

Does Harrell have a favorite side of the ball he's hoping to end up on?

"That's the question I've been asked all year," Harrell said with a laugh. "Whatever Coach D wants me to play, I'll be happy to play.

"The way they run the football is the same way my high school runs the ball. They run from the gun a lot, they run a lot of stretch plays with some big boys on the edge. That is what we do so I could be real comfortable at running back. But at the same time, it's the same with the defense as I've played linebacker and I played safety so it all comes together."

While impressed with the love he felt from the staff, it was the behind the scenes things during his visit to East Lansing that really impressed him with what is happening in East Lansing.

"It is a Spartan Dawgs thing," he said. "The coaching staff's football IQ is just ridiculous and was just amazing to watch. I can't wait to get in there and learn that defense."

What should Spartan fans expect from Harrell?

"They are going to get a versatile player and will see a lot of my face early," Harrell said with confidence.

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