- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 17, 2005

For almost a decade, Milton Harris and Madieu Williams have shared nearly all their experiences.

When the two were in high school, it was Williams learning defensive techniques and sharing them with his younger friend, and the pair would analyze plays Harris saw in other games. Later, both transferred from nearby Division I-AA schools to walk on at Maryland.

Harris again followed his close friend’s path this season, taking over as a starting safety with the Terrapins (5-4, 3-3 ACC) and flourishing with a team on the verge of bowl eligibility.

The pair played at DuVal High School in Lanham, before Williams pursued a college career at Towson. When Harris finished his high school career, both wound up on the move — Williams to Maryland as a walk-on, while Harris earned a partial scholarship at Delaware State.

Williams earned a starting spot with the Terps after sitting out a year, but Harris’ career wasn’t so smooth. He started on both sides of the ball for two seasons, but he didn’t receive the full scholarship he was promised as a junior.

“Madieu heard about that and he just convinced me if I was going to pay to go there then I might as well come to Maryland where there’s a better education and I’d have more exposure and I agreed with him,” said Harris, who is two years younger than Williams.

Harris was again forced to walk on, though Williams’ presence helped Harris adjust to his new team. For his part, Williams, who now plays for the Cincinnati Bengals, savored the opportunity to spend his final season with such a good friend.

Williams helped Harris acclimate himself to College Park, but he didn’t say much to coach Ralph Friedgen about Harris. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to see Harris succeed; he just correctly assumed Harris could leave his own impression.

“I figured I didn’t have to sell Milton,” Williams said this week. “By Milton coming here and doing the things he could do, he would do all the talking for himself. I still don’t have to do that. All I did was encourage him to transfer and to show him how to be a Terp. The rest was up to him.”

Harris, a reserve last season, took one class this summer to complete his coveted degree in criminology and criminal justice before receiving a scholarship — finally — at the start of this season.

After beating out J.J. Justice and Marcus Wimbush in camp to start at strong safety, Harris has racked up 62 tackles — most among Maryland’s defensive backs — and a team-high six tackles for loss.

“He’s a better man than me, because if I didn’t have a scholarship I’d be danged if I was coming here,” cornerback Josh Wilson said. “For him and Madieu to come here and not have a scholarship, that’s a tough road to pay your way and go to college. That’s one thing I like about him.

“I’m the type of person that wants to earn everything I’ve got. He’s surely earned everything he’s got.”

Others in the program are equally impressed. Defensive coordinator Gary Blackney raved this week about Harris’ improved pass coverage, and senior D’Qwell Jackson said Harris’ eagerness for contact on tackles makes it seem like the Terps “have an extra linebacker.”

Harris’ season was almost derailed when he suffered a concussion at Florida State on Oct. 29. He spent two anxious weeks at practice pining for contact and absorbing teasing from teammates before finally playing on Saturday at North Carolina.

Once unleashed on the Tar Heels, Harris doubled his career best with 16 tackles and added a potentially game-saving forced fumble in the fourth quarter to help Maryland escape with a 33-30 overtime victory.

“I was thinking I thought I would get three picks in a game before I got 16 tackles,” said Harris, the ACC’s defensive back of the week. “After the game, someone asked me how many tackles I had and I said probably about eight or nine. When they said 16, I was just blown away.”

Harris will play his final home game tomorrow, another milestone in a circuitous career. It’s a credit to both Harris’ patience and talent that he’ll enjoy his last day in Byrd Stadium much as Williams did two years ago — not that Williams ever doubted it would happen.

“He loved the game of football and he enjoyed playing,” said Williams, who talks with Harris a few times each week. “I told him ‘Never lose that love, never lose that passion’ and he never did. Now you’re seeing the results of that.”

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