BY Jim Fenton
Enterprise Staff Writer
The senior middle linebacker put together a sensational season in 2013 when he earned All-America honors after setting school and Northeast-10 Conference records with 151 tackles, ranking fourth in the nation.
EASTON – He reported to the Stonehill College football training camp last summer ready for an increased role.
After two seasons of playing mostly on special teams, Brian Harrington of Rockland was looking to move up the depth chart at the linebacker position in his junior year.
Little did anyone know back then how much the former Enterprise All-Scholastic would take advantage of his first opportunity to be a Skyhawks' starter.
Harrington had a season to remember while helping Stonehill go 8-3 – its first winning record since 1996 – and earn a share of the Northeast-10 Conference regular-season championship.
He broke the conference and school records by making 151 tackles, the fourth-high total among Division 2 players in the nation and the 11th-best output ever. The middle linebacker recorded at least 10 tackles in all but one of the 11 games and made 73 solo tackles, the sixth-highest total in the country.
The chance to play on a regular basis came and Harrington made the most of it, earning a spot on the Dan Hansen Division 2 All-America second team and All-America honorable mention from the Beyond Sports Network.
"It was very nice because I was trained by the best trainer around, in my opinion, Tim Brown (at GutCheck in Rockland),'' said Harrington, "and he always told me, 'Keep your head up and keep working hard. Your time is going to come.'
"He kind of pushed me and instilled the never-give-up mentality in me. To have it pay off, I was really happy.''
Harrington returns this season as one of the Stonehill captains, a leader on a team that will be one of the favorites in the NE-10.
He has put 2013 in the past and is trying to help the Skyhawks build on what they accomplished a year ago.
"Last year is last year,'' said Harrington before a practice this week. "It's a whole new year. After the championship game (a loss at American International College), nothing from last year mattered.
"It's just focus on the team now, focus on what I can do to myself to improve, what I can do as a player to help the team improve. That's what it's all about now.''
Harrington did a lot to lead the Stonehill defense a year ago. In addition to making the all-conference team, he was named the Joe Zabilski defensive player of the year by the Greater Gridiron Club of Boston and was on the New England Football Writers College Division team.
Selected the D2football.com defensive player of the year for the NE-10, Harrington was steady from start to finish last season.
"It was his consistency of continuing to post double digits in tackles,'' said Stonehill coach Robert Talley, whose team opens Sept. 6 against Bloomsburg University. "A lot of times, you see stats like that, but usually it's a guy who has a million assisted tackles. But he just ran sideline to sideline to make plays.
"Even when he'd make mistakes, he's making up for it because of his effort. You don't see a play where he's taking a play off. If he misses a tackle, he's going to get up and chase it down.''
Harrington was moved to middle linebacker last August after it was learned that his roommate, Mike Hogan, had been diagnosed with a career-ending heart ailment.
After training at GutCheck throughout the offseason, Harrington was ready for the assignment.
"Every day in the offseason, you train and you want to be the guy they call on,'' said Harrington, who is the third Stonehill player to earn All-America honors. "That's how I've always trained and how I always will train. It doesn't matter if in preseason you're slotted as the starter or the third string.
"An injury can happen and all of a sudden you're number one. Your number's going to get called. I think everyone on the team trains that way.''
Harrington made 16 tackles in his debut as a starter against nationally ranked Bloomsburg and he went below 10 stops in a game just once.
"It was coaching,'' said Harrington when asked to explain his success. " I bought into what coach (Eli) Gardner (the defensive coordinator) and coach Talley had to say, watching film with them every day.
"I couldn't have been more prepared every week and it was because of them. I'm not the biggest guy or the strongest or the fastest, but they made sure I put myself in the right position. That was definitely the reason.''
Harrington, who was not heavily recruited coming out of Rockland High where he was a defensive end, said there are areas in which he can get better this season.
"In every aspect, I can improve,'' said Harrington, who has been nominated for the Allstate American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team for his charitable work and community service. "There's a lot of tackles I left out on the field.
"Especially the first half of the season, I don't think I was a great run stopper. My pass drops could use a lot of improvement. You can never be satisfied. You've always got to keep looking for something.
"Watching film from last year and watching myself in preseason camp, I have a lot to improve on and a lot to work on before Sept. 6.''
Jim Fenton may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JFenton_ent.