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"Jaguar" Jake Barann will leave his spots behind when he graduates this spring. The next challenge for the football and academic star is Harvard University in Cambridge, MA.


FOOTBALL: Allen Park star chooses Harvard (PHOTO)

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When the first recruiting letter arrived, Allen Park’s Jake Barann and his mom looked at each other and smiled.

The name on the letter said “Harvard.”

“We both joked that this must be from Harvard Community College someplace, right?” said Barann.

Nope. It was Harvard, all right, citadel of American learning in Cambridge, Massachusetts and the school was interested in Jake coming there not only to learn, but to play football.

It took a while for the idea to really, really sink in.

“It was a little surreal when the recruiter finally walked in the door. I was still like, ‘this is the real Harvard, right,’” said Barann.

Those of you who follow Downriver high school football already know Barann’s name. He is the two-way starter who helped Coach Tom Hoover’s Allen Park Jaguars into the state playoffs each of the last two seasons.

The lanky receiver was one of the best pass-catchers in the area the past two years, as well as one of the area’s top defensive ends.

In college, Barann will be a tight end. He doesn’t yet look like a college football player – more like the high school basketball forward that he still is – but you can see how his 6-foot, 4-inch frame can easily carry the muscle need for his football position.

Barann’s journey from high school to Harvard really began his sophomore year when Hoover asked the then-10th-grader if he was serious about playing in college.

He said he was, forgot about playing baseball to concentrate on football, and later got a recruiting video together.

That video, along with his 4.21 grade-point average and eventually his score of 31 on the ACT exam, caught the eye of Ivy League football recruiters.

He was contacted by Penn, Yale and Harvard and he checked out all three during a week-and-a-half recruiting visit to the East Coast schools last summer.

And, truth be told, he liked them all, but when he got to Harvard he was “blown away.”

It wasn’t just the school’s reputation and the opportunities it presented, it was the way he was welcomed and treated by coaches, players and students.

“They had a lot of people there, coaches and players, and they really made you feel like they wanted you,” Barann said.

The visit clinched the deal and earlier this month, Barann made it official, signing to play with the Crimson.

When someone decides to go to Harvard, education is the primary motivation. Imagine the doors a Harvard degree can open. Imagine the connections you’ll develop through the friends you will make there.

But this is a sports’ story, too.

So how’s the football look in Boston? Well, Barann is excited to talk about that, as well.

The Crimson, under veteran Coach Tim Murphy, was 8-1 last season, including a 34-7 trouncing of archrival Yale in “The Game” to cap the season.

The team’s only loss was a 51-48 heartbreaker against Princeton, the team the Crimson tied with for the top spot in the Ivy League with 6-1 records.

Murphy, the Crimson coach for two decades, is the winningest coach in program history with a 137-62 record at Harvard.

Harvard runs an up-tempo, no-huddle offense with multiple tight-ends – music to the ears of a recruit that plays that position.

“There was a freshman tight end that caught a touchdown pass last year,” said Barann. “So that means there is an opportunity to play right away.”

Barann admits that there is a little trepidation about going to such a highly regarded academic institution, but he said advisors and others at the university have already helped address those fears for in-coming freshman.

“They offer a lot of help. They told us that this is going to be a new experience for all of us because there are going to be a lot of people around who are smarter than us, something we are not used to,” he said. “One football player told me the environment is set up so that it’s hard not to do well.”

All freshmen at Harvard live together. Then, after their freshman year, students are assigned to different on-campus houses where they spend the next three years.

Unlike at other schools, 98 percent of all students live on-campus at Harvard and at their houses students can benefit from academic advisors and tutoring options, if necessary.

Barann said that Coach Murphy told him that in his 20 years as Harvard head coach only two four-year players have not graduated and one of them went to the NFL

On his recruiting visit last summer, Barann said he met a number of recruits from San Diego, San Antonio, Atlanta and “all over the country.”

Some of those recruits have joined Barann in picking Harvard and those players have already formed a Facebook group and have gotten a jump on bonding.

Barann said he is not sure about a major and laughed when asked about it.

“I’m all over the place,” he said. “As a sophomore I was thinking pre-med, then I switched to thinking about engineering, then bio-engineering to include both things, now maybe business administration.”

Regardless of his eventual decision, a degree from Harvard – in any discipline – will pay big dividends.

And when Jake Barann walks through the door for his first job interview, no one will wonder if that diploma is from Harvard Community College.

Last Updated: 2/11/2014 3:58:09 PM EST