Land of 10 has embarked on a series of Next Generation articles, a project that aims to bring our readers greater insight into the class of 2017 signees. Michigan State reporter Luke Srodulski has hit the road to visit this year’s incoming class of freshmen and give you an inside look beyond Hudl highlights and head shots. The latest feature centers on 3-star linebacker Noah Harvey, a late addition to the class.
HARTLAND, Wis. — The drive from Michigan to Wisconsin had never seemed to take longer than it did on Jan. 28.
Arrowhead (Hartland, Wis.) outside linebacker Noah Harvey had made the 5-hour trip countless times. His father, Chuck, who owns Racine Automotive Group, grew up in the Detroit-area suburb of Westland and attended John Glenn High School. He still has friends and family all over Michigan. Noah, though born and raised in Wisconsin, lists Detroit as his hometown on his Facebook page.
This time, the Saturday trip around Lake Michigan, through Chicago and past Milwaukee was an awkward one. Chuck and Noah’s mother, Cindy, tried to have a discussion with him, but their attempts were rebuffed.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Noah told them.
Noah had just wrapped up his third visit to Michigan State. He traveled to East Lansing first for a camp during summer 2016, then for the Spartans’ game against Michigan on Oct. 29, all leading up to the official visit that could determine his college football future. It would be his last visit before National Signing Day on Feb. 1.
He arrived on campus committed to Bowling Green but with the understanding from the Falcons that if a Big Ten team should offer, he would take it. Michigan State did so, just not the way he had hoped. Spartans coach Mark Dantonio sat down with Noah and his parents to discuss a grayshirt offer, which would put him on scholarship in the second semester of his freshman year to save the team a scholarship for the 2017 season.
Some grayshirt athletes only enroll after the first semester is complete, but Dantonio wanted him to join the team at the same time as all the other commits. So Noah would have to pay his way through the first semester. That didn’t quite satisfy him. He came in feeling worthy of being put on full scholarship from the get-go, even if he didn’t necessarily expect it.
Several months later, Noah finds himself not only committed to Michigan State, but signed on a full-ride scholarship. It didn’t happen quite the way he had hoped, but it happened. It took some deep consideration, some risk-taking and some encouragement from his parents to ultimately make a decision that has left him with no regrets.
But some residual frustration remains. He has made the coaches aware, and they like it. Chuck calls it “wood on the fire.” Noah plays better when he’s angry, and even though he now has a full ride, he has retained the grayshirt attitude.
“I’m still going to have that fire in me,” he says, “and I’m still going to be pissed off that all this stuff came so late, their offer and everything. I’m still going to come in fired up.”
‘That’s a dude’
Noah saw college in his future long before he envisioned playing college football.
His two older sisters both attended college, so he saw the precedent there. But he didn’t have college football in his lineage and didn’t see that future for himself — at least not until his junior year, when teams such as Illinois State and South Dakota started showing interest.
“They kind of opened my eyes like, ‘Wow, I actually have the capability of going somewhere for this sport,’” Noah says. “I never thought I would go to college and play football at this level. I really didn’t. I just played it because I enjoyed it.”
Noah started high school football at wide receiver. He also contributed on special teams and even took snaps in a wildcat formation. But he found his niche at outside linebacker. He prefers to hit rather than be hit.
His film immediately jumped out to Fritz Rauch after he was hired as Arrowhead’s football coach in 2016. Rauch refers to Noah simply as “a dude,” seemingly one of his highest compliments. With Noah’s 6-foot-3 size and length to go with a 4.6-second 40-yard dash time, Rauch knew he had a special player.
“I’m looking at a 6-foot-3, 6-foot-4 kid who’s athletic,” Rauch says of Noah’s highlight film. “They played him all over the place. They played him at all three levels. And I’m thinking, ‘Wow, that’s a dude.’”
Big Ten teams saw the 3-star talent but they didn’t make any quick moves. Wisconsin, his home-state school, only offered a preferred walk-on spot. Iowa teased the notion of a scholarship but never pulled the trigger. And Michigan State took its sweet time.
Now at 225 pounds, Noah weighed in at 205 when he attended camp at Michigan State. Spartans recruiting coordinator Brad Salem would later tell Chuck Harvey that if Noah had looked then like he does now, the offer would’ve come then. That’s easy to say in hindsight.
But if Salem said it, Rauch probably believes it. The two have known each other for 5 years, since Rauch’s time coaching Homestead (Mequon, Wis.) before he came to Arrowhead. He remembers Salem sitting down to watch film on Ryan Stendler, who would end up at Northern Illinois. Though he knew the Spartans had no spots remaining, he took the time to watch, compliment and critique the film, an act that has stuck with Rauch.
“If I can’t trust a guy like that, I can’t trust anybody,” Rauch says.
That trust would come in handy for Noah down the road.
Shortly after Noah committed to Bowling Green on Jan. 22, he got a call from Mike Tressel, the Michigan State co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. Tressel, Noah said, was surprised by the decision when the Spartans, who had ramped up interest, would be bringing him in for a visit the following weekend.
It’s all part of the plan, Noah assured him. Bowling Green knew that if Michigan State offered, it would be enough to sway him. He just had to verbally commit to BGSU to save his spot should the Spartans not offer.
Bowling Green wanted Noah to play from the outset, but redshirting — sitting out his freshman season to save a year of eligibility — at Michigan State looked appealing. Cindy liked it because it gave him time to bulk up before facing bigger college players, and he liked it because he could attend graduate school with his fifth year. The financial aspect, though, initially gave him pause. Sure, he might not play as a freshman, but he still wanted his costs covered.
For an out-of-state student, tuition along with room and board costs more than $23,000 per semester. While his parents might be able to handle it, Noah felt he owed them a full ride. They had his two older sisters, Jenna and Maddie, and younger brother, Owen, to provide for as well. He considered sticking with Bowling Green until a talk with his parents turned the tide.
“We just told him, ‘Don’t even think about the money,'” says Cindy, a nurse. “If he would’ve gone to Michigan State and paid a semester, it’s a big chunk of out-of-state tuition. But really, that is so small. You’ve got to look at the big picture, the education, the football. It’s kind of a no-brainer.”
Financial qualms cast aside, it came down to whether Noah and his family could trust Michigan State like Rauch trusts Salem. After all, with no national letter of intent to fax in on signing day, there would be no binding contract ensuring that Michigan State would put him on scholarship come January.
The official visit shed a little light, as Noah learned about the success of former grayshirts Jack Conklin (now with the Tennessee Titans) and current tackle Cole Chewins. Chuck had spoken with Chewins’ father on Facebook before the trip, and they did so again in person in East Lansing. Coach Dantonio is the truth, Paul Chewins assured Chuck. If he tells you that’s how it is, that’s how it is.
The Harvey family leaned on Dantonio’s faith in their decision-making and drew trust from that. Their meeting with him affirmed it, and it gave them more reason to believe in his offer.
“Everyone said he’s a man of faith,” Cindy says. “I love that. I take my faith very seriously, but you just don’t know about other people.”
Noah looked elsewhere for signs of whether he belonged at Michigan State. His visit put him alongside L.J. Cummings, an outside linebacker prospect who had earned a full-ride offer. Salem told Noah not to compare himself to Cummings or take the situation as an indication that the Spartans weren’t as interested in him.
Instead, Noah was told to focus on Le’Veon Bell, the former Spartans star running back who also had previously committed to Bowling Green. Advice from Salem, support from his family and the realization that Michigan State would offer him better opportunities to major in finance and move on to graduate school led him to flip his commitment on Jan. 31 — one day before signing day.
“After I talked to Salem one more time and then my mom, it kind of opened my eyes,” Harvey says, “like, ‘I think I should become a Spartan.'”
The commitment, though exciting, didn’t come with the satisfaction of most commitments. The mock letter of intent sent to him to fill out ceremonially on Feb. 1 served as a reminder to Noah that he wasn’t necessarily on the same level as the other commits.
But he could be. Dantonio called him and said a full-ride scholarship could be available should he outwork the other freshmen in the summer. He made a similar point to Chuck.
“If something comes up,” Chuck remembers Dantonio saying, “and I have the ability to make him a full, I will.”
‘Frosting on the cake’
It didn’t take long. Noah was driving to a friend’s house after school on March 3 when he got the call from Dantonio. The Michigan State staff made its decision a week before, and on this day, the coach shared the news.
“We’re sending you the papers because we’re going to put you on full scholarship,” Noah remembers him saying.
Noah was speechless. He finally felt validated in his commitment to Michigan State. He could put himself on the same level as all the full-ride signees.
He went home later that day and sat in his favorite chair, waiting for his mother. When she arrived, he let her know the news. She gave out a “woohoo,” hugged him and called Chuck.
“I was very excited,” Cindy says. “It was kind of a relief.”
Chuck, who had already committed financially to the grayshirt option and had no regrets about his son’s decision, called it “frosting on the cake.” The third grayshirt commit under Dantonio would no longer be a grayshirt. Noah had earned the Big Ten offer he wanted. And through a trying recruiting process with frustration that still lingers, he could take a moment to bask in what he had achieved.
“It felt when I didn’t have the full scholarship … I knew they wanted me, but I didn’t fulfill what I wanted to accomplish,” Noah says. “It was kind of that whole, ‘Oh, I’m getting almost everything paid for.’
“That full scholarship means you did it.”
For the complete Michigan State NextGen series, click this link.