Former Owl fulfills title search in big way at little Ga. Southern

October 04, 1992|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,Staff Writer

Lost in the shuffle of perennial college football powers like th University of Miami, Florida State and Georgia, lies a small Division I-AA school down south that has won as many national titles in the past decade as those three put together.

Starting nose guard Shawn Haralson says Georgia Southern University is "practically in the middle of nowhere." It's in Statesboro, Ga., right off the coast about 40 miles from Savannah.

In his four-plus years there, the Westminster High grad has grown to love the area's fishing and hunting, not to mention "the nicest people you can meet in the world." He even says the cafeteria food is pretty good.

And then there's Georgia Southern Eagles football.

"Georgia Southern football is all about heart," said the 6-foot-3, 242-pound senior.

"It's all about guys that may be a step too slow, a couple inches too small or a few pounds too light to play at a Division I school."

More importantly, it's all about winning.

The Eagles have won four national championships since 1985. ** They entered this season with a winning percentage of .777 (102-29-1) since 1980 -- second only to Eastern Kentucky (.789) in Division I-AA.

Haralson has been part of two of those championship teams, back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990.

"It's the most unbelievable feeling in the world," he said.

"I watched us lose in the championship as a redshirt freshman, but was lucky enough to be part of two national championship teams.

"There's nothing like being on the field watching the clock wind down knowing you're the best team in the nation, then being swarmed by teammates and seeing my parents in the stands enjoying the moment."

Haralson has played in every game since his freshman season, starting occasionally at defensive tackle and playing a key role on special teams.

"He's come a long way since his freshman year," said Eagles third-year coach Tim Stowers.

"He's not possessed with the most talent, but makes up for it with a lot of heart and knowledge of the game. We felt nose guard was the best place for him and our football team, and he's really played well."

Haralson's main responsibility is to try to draw a double team in the middle to keep the offensive guard or center off the middle linebacker and give the defensive tackle a man-to-man situation.

The Eagles play a 4-3 defense and pride themselves on stopping the run.

"We came into the season with the goal of being the No. 1 defense in the nation," Haralson said.

"We have a defensive scheme where everyone swarms to the ball, and that's what makes us tough against the run. If we can stop the run, it forces teams to pass when they don't necessarily want to, and that's the key."

Coming off a 7-4 season -- disappointing by their standards -- the Eagles are looking to get back into the championship game this season. Haralson is enjoying his roles as a starter and team leader.

"It's a lot different for me this year," he said. "I have more responsibility trying to keep myself up, but also trying to keep the younger guys up and ready because they really look to you -- that's what being a senior is all about."

The physical education and health major plans to stay down south and get into coaching along with teaching high school after graduating this spring.

"He's like a second coach out there on the field and really is a good influence on the younger players," Stowers said.

But first Haralson would like to watch the clock wind down one last time, with fellow Eagles swarming and parents cheering in the stands.

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