Dukes' national recruiting pays off
When he chose Duquesne University, All-American linebacker Harry Carter looked past the culture shock of playing football in a colder climate than his native Maryland.
"The temperature was 20 degrees and the wind-chill factor was crazy. I said, 'I'm not going to a Pittsburgh school,'" Carter said Monday, about his initial reaction to attending Duquesne. But the 6-foot-1, 235-pound junior, who led the Dukes in tackles in each of his first two seasons, has adjusted.
"Now, it's my second home," he said of Pittsburgh.
Carter and his Duquesne teammates -- many of whom, too, are out-of-state products, open their college football season Saturday at Holy Cross in defense of their Sports Network NCAA Division I-AA Mid-Major championship.
"When you look at our defense, there's only one kid from Western Pennsylvania starting on it," Duquesne coach Greg Gattuso said, referring to another All-American -- defensive lineman Josh Antinopoulos, a 6-2, 265-pound graduate of Monaca High School.
"We've got a lot of guys on our team from Texas, California, Maryland, New Jersey ... I look at it more as that we've gone national in our recruiting. We used to be 90 percent Pennsylvania, but when we began to have a lot of success 5-6 years ago, that's when it started. We're much more diversified."
Gattuso doesn't think the talent is any less these days in Western Pennsylvania. On the contrary.
"There are so many good kids around here," he said, "and obviously we've found our share -- (quarterback) Neil Loebig (South Fayette), Josh Martin (West Allegheny), who's our left tackle. But what we're finding is there's a lot of great areas outside of here that are very competitive.
"A good example of other kids wanting to come here is the success we had with a kid like Leigh Bodden (a native of Upper Marlboro, Md., who is a second-year defensive back with the Cleveland Browns). Guys see someone like him coming here and having the kind of success he's had and they say, 'What is this Duquesne school?' We're finding out more and more that this is a place where kids want to be."
Carter is a returning Sports Network Mid-Major All-American, who was named to the all-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Football League first team last season. He also was the MAAC defensive rookie of the year in 2002.
Carter led Duquesne last season with 114 tackles, including 52 solo stops. His 10.4 tackles per game ranked 28th in all of Division I-AA.
Among his most memorable performances last season was during a 33-28 victory over Robert Morris in which he logged 14 tackles and forced a fumble, which was returned for a touchdown, and a 12-tackle effort in the Dukes' 12-10 victory over Monmouth (N.J.) in the ECAC Classic, which clinched the Division I-AA Mid-Major title.
"People want to be on a winning team," Carter said. "It just shows you about the program we have. You don't have to be from Pennsylvania. Winning is a tradition here. I hate losing, and it made the decision to come here a lot easier for me."
Holy Cross is the first of four opponents from the Division I-AA scholarship Patriot League on the Duquesne schedule, and it is the first meeting between the schools since 1949.
Gattuso enters the game with a 90-29 record in 11 seasons at Duquesne. he needs one victory to tie Dan McCann as the Dukes' winningest football coach.