football star Darrell Harper was a major part of why the , and now the University of New Haven is hoping for similar results. The Vikings standout two-way running back/cornerback signed a National Letter of Intent to attend UNH on a full athletic scholarship last week.
"I really liked the campus when I visited, they offered the majors I was looking for and they have a really good Division II football program," Harper said. "They really had everything I was looking for in a college. It feels great to get a scholarship because it takes the load off of my parents with having to pay for college. It just feels good knowing that if you work hard you can get a good outcome."
Harper, who led the Vikings in rushing yards (482) and rushing touchdowns (8) in 2011, said he hopes to major in business when he gets to college in the fall. He said he doesn't have a preference for which side of the ball he plays, as long as he gets on the field.
"I'm thinking I'll play on the defensive side of the ball, maybe play corner and play some special teams returning punts and kickoffs," Harper said. "I really don't have a preference, I like both sides of the ball. I like playing offense, but I also like playing defense, running around tackling and hitting people."
As he looks back at the record setting year for the Vikings, Harper said the team's dramatic was his favorite moment. South Brunswick was able to take a 28-24 lead with 1:14 to play on Harper's 1-yard touchdown run. Woodbridge then went 53 yards on its final drive, taking the ball all the way to the South Brunswick 8-yard line.
After an incompletion by Woodbridge quarterback Kyle Anderson, which should have ended the game, officials put one second back on the clock. Vikings cornerback Jevon Tyree then knocked down a pass to secure the South Brunswick win.
"The intensity of that game with the elements, having to battle back and having to beat them twice, of all the games we played that's the one I'll never forget," Harper said.
College recruiters didn’t overlook the success of the Vikings this year. In addition to Harper, for Rutgers University.
"Obviously this is something we take a lot of pride in, but we can't take all the credit because these are not just talented athletes but great people," said SBHS Head Coach Rick Mantz of his two senior stars. "This is something colleges are aware of, the fact that these are also great young men. It says a lot about the talent and the work that people like (Crossroads Middle School football coach) ."
Harper, who began playing football in South Brunswick for the Pop Warner program in the fifth-grade, credited the work from the coaches at all levels in South Brunswick for his success on the field.
"That had a huge impact because every coach I've had I learned great things from," he said. "They're great people and they helped to make me into the person I am today. Coach Mantz always stressed to work hard and not to slack off. Without him I wouldn't have been able to make it this far."
With the end of his time at SBHS in sight, Harper said it was bonding with his teammates that are among his most special memories from high school.
"Going out to eat at Hoagie Haven the Thursday night before games, going to eat after those big wins and all the time spent with my teammates in South Brunswick are some of the best memories I have," he said.
But the humble star Harper saved the highest praise for the family that helped him achieve his highest goals, as he looks to continue racking up the wins at New Haven.
"My family has been amazing, always pushing me to do my best work and stay goal oriented," he said. They've been by my side through it all. It will be a little more difficult without them in the stands every game, but New Haven isn't that far away.
"It feels great to start a new chapter and having to prove myself all over again in a new program. I'm definitely looking forward to that."