By SCOTT M. BURNSTEIN Special to The Oakland Press
Harrison defensive end Mario Ojemudia is going to the University of Michigan, where he'll play under second-year coach Brady Hoke next year. (The Oakland Press file photo)
Hawks senior Jake Vento signed with Grand Valley State University, where he'll play slot receiver, a position he was very comfortable at during Harrison's run to a state championship during his junior year. (The Oakland Press file photo)
FARMINGTON HILLS – The Farmington Hills Harrison football program has been overflowing with talent the past couple of years.
On Wednesday, in a ceremony at the school in front of family, friends and a large media contingent, six Hawks gridiron stars signed National of Letters of Intent to play in college. The event was highlighted by wide receiver Aaron Burbridge, arguably the top offensive player in the state, signing with Michigan State University and defensive lineman Mario Ojemudia, arguably the top defensive player in the state, signing with the University of Michigan.
Devin Funchess, Harrison’s standout tight end, was absent from the ceremony due to him being out of town in San Antonio to participate in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. However, Funchess did sign a letter of intent with Michigan earlier in the morning down in Texas.
Two-year all-state selection Jake Vento, the Hawks starting quarterback last fall, signed with Division II power Grand Valley State as a slot receiver, the position he played as a junior.
Vento, Burbridge, Ojemudia and Funchess teamed to lead Harrison to a 24-1 overall record the last two years, including winning two straight Oakland Activities Association Red Division championships and a state title back in 2010. The Hawks were the state’s No. 1 ranked team for a majority of the last two seasons and held a national ranking as high as No. 7 this year before getting upset by eventual state champion Birmingham Brother Rice in the district finals and breaking a 23-game win streak.
Also signing on Wednesday was running back Austin Hunter (Notre Dame College) and defensive backs Ken Russ (Howard) and Lamar Marshall (Sienna Heights). Like their higher-profile teammates, Hunter, Russ and Marshall were two-year starters and key members of the 2010 state championship squad.
“This is just a fantastic group of young men and I couldn’t be prouder of each and every one of them on this very special day,” longtime Harrison head coach John Herrington said. “Their total record and their state title speak to what they were all about, which was winning. These guys never stopped putting in the work and definitely made my job as the head coach a whole lot easier. The legacy they leave behind will be a tough act to follow.”
Burbridge, who could challenge for playing time up in East Lansing as early as next season, appreciated his time at Harrison.
“We all learned to be champions together and the memories we made will always remembered,” he said.
Ojemudia is thrilled that he will get a chance to play against Burbridge in the Big Ten.
“We’ve been going against each other in practice all these years and now I can’t wait to see him on the field in college every year when Michigan and Michigan State square off,” he said. “I’m excited to go to Ann Arbor and be part of a Michigan team that finally gets the bragging rights back in the rivalry.”
Last season, Ojemudia, set a Harrison single-season record with 14 sacks. The signings of he and Funchess are part of a Michigan recruiting class ranked as one of the best in the country.