On Saturday night, when the University of Miami defense takes the field against Wisconsin during the Capital One Orange Bowl, keep your eyes peeled on the U’s No. 33, who has brought new meaning to the words “backup defensive end.”
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Senior Trent Harris not only leads the Hurricanes and is tied for second in the Atlantic Coast Conference with 8 1/2 sacks, he is No. 1 in paying homage to his older brother — a former NCAA Division II football star who now defends the country.
After every sack, Trent Harris stands at attention like a soldier and salutes Troy Harris, 26, who serves in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and returned in September after nine months in Iraq. It’s a touching moment in a violent game, but if you’re looking at the quarterback in a heap on the ground, you might miss it.
“It brings joy to my heart,” said Trent, 22, who backs up starter Chad Thomas in a multiple-player rotation. “I’m so proud of my brother. I wouldn’t be where I am without him. He has been pushing me since we were younger — my biggest supporter.”
Turnover Trent. pic.twitter.com/ezIOfRdfQe
— Canes Football (@CanesFootball) December 3, 2017
It brings tears to his parents’ eyes, and yes, to big brother’s, as well.
“It was a proud moment when I first saw him do it at the Duke game,” Troy told the Miami Herald this week as he prepared to make the drive with his wife, Ashley, and 4-year-old son Kaden from Fort Bragg in North Carolina to the game, with a stop in Winter Park to visit home and pick up Betsy, the boys’ mother. “Trent is a hard worker and a humble person. He does what he’s supposed to do but is kind of like the underdog.
“People really don’t recognize him until they realize that, ‘Wow. He leads the team in sacks.’
“I’m really excited to see what’s next.”
UM defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, whose defense is No. 1 in the nation in sacks and second in tackles for loss (Harris has 10 1/2 of them among 35 tackles), described Trent’s tribute to his brother as “very cool.”
“It shows that he’s doing something more than for him,” Diaz said. “To me, the great tenet of any defense is selflessness. Trent is very smart — and he’s relentless.”
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Hurricanes defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski is a big fan of the salute, and a bigger fan of Harris’. “Awesome” is how coach “Kool” described Harris and his salutes. “He’s gone from a guy who was certainly not on a lot of NFL radars to everybody’s now.
“He really idolizes his brother — a great story.”
Junior tackle RJ McIntosh said Harris has been special since he has known him.
“When I came in, they called him ‘Toolbox Trent’ because he knew everything. He’s always in the right place at the right time. And what he does for his brother, that’s crazy — and cool.”
Harris said he began saluting his brother at the end of last season. Because Troy is stationed in North Carolina and UM plays in the ACC, big brother has seen him play at Duke on Sept. 29, at North Carolina on Oct. 28, at home against Virginia Tech on Nov. 18 and against Clemson on Dec. 2 in the ACC Championship Game.
Troy Harris, an “E-4 Specialist” awaiting a promotion to sergeant, was a national finalist for the Gene Upshaw Division II Lineman of the Year award in 2013 at Mars Hill University, where his quarterback was none other than current UM quarterbacks coach Jon Richt. Troy, who is larger than the somewhat undersized 6-2, 248-pound Trent, is 6-4 and said he weighed about 265 when he played at Mars Hill.
Not coincidentally, Troy also wore No. 33 in college.
“Football wasn’t really a passion for me,” Troy said. “I walked on and ended up getting really good and played my years out. I see Jon Richt after every game and say hi and wish him luck.”
Troy said that it was during a phone conversation when Trent first broached the subject of his salutes. “He was like, ‘Man, I’m going to salute you when I get a sack,’ ” Troy recalled. “I said, ‘That would be awesome, man.’
“I lost two of my friends, who were younger than me, in Iraq, and they had attended a UM game with me at North Carolina State last year. And Trent said, ‘It’s all for you guys.’ That respect means a lot.”
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The brothers, who have an 18-year-old sister, Taylor, grew up in Winter Park outside Orlando. Mom is a fourth-grade teacher, and dad William is a service writer for a Honda dealership.
“I don’t remember the first time I saw him salute; I just remember it made me tear up because I knew immediately what it meant,” said William Harris, who noted that Trent was “quiet until he was 3” and “chubby until he started growing in eighth grade.”
Rain or shine, gotta get that work in. pic.twitter.com/XYGf2uxpNL
— Canes Football (@CanesFootball) December 27, 2017
Betsy said she still ponders how the Hurricanes football program has changed since Trent, recruited by several major programs, made the unexpected decision to spurn his childhood Gators and sign with Miami. He has never looked back.
“They’ve been through so much — the coaching change, Hurricane Irma this season, all the obstacles they’ve overcome,” Betsy said. “The fact that I can see my son’s football dream coming true has been amazing.”
William Harris knows there will be “lots of scouts” watching No. 10 Miami (10-2) face the No. 6 Badgers (12-1). He said his youngest son, though a quiet leader, has “always been the kid who finds another gear when everybody else is tired.
“He needs to show them what he’s got. Wisconsin will be tough, but I expect us to win and the defense to dominate.”
Troy Harris figures a salute or two wouldn’t hurt.
“Wisconsin is good,” he said, “but I think we’re going to hit ’em in the mouth.”
This article is written by Susan Miller Degnan from Miami Herald and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.