As Milford Mill's J'Quane Harris walked around the field with his Big 33 Football Classic jersey and pads in one hand and Maryland's Most Valuable Player trophy in the other Saturday night, the defensive lineman had a theory for why people were showering him with back slaps and congratulations.
"Slow feet don't eat," he said. "That's how it works."
The Charleston commit had just used his undersized 5-foot-8, 230-pound frame to juke around and speed through Pennsylvania's "big" and "slow" offensive line.
It helped Harris finish the game — Maryland lost, 44-33 — with a strip sack and the individual prize Big 33 officials haven't awarded to a defensive player in what district director Frank Gay said has been "quite a few years."
"Really just coming into the game, I had a mindset that I was trying to do what I do best and get to the quarterback," Harris said. "Do what I worked on all year, and that was causing havoc."
The Milford Mill alumnus wasn't a starter.
While he was a second-team All-Metro selection last fall, the defensive line featured one of the few Power Five commits able to participate in the game — Maryland-bound B'Ahmad Miller, a 6-foot-3, 280-pound three-star recruit.
The St. Frances graduate, however, suffered a knee injury early in the first quarter and didn't return, leaving Maryland with just five healthy defensive linemen. The rotation the squad had practiced throughout the week was out of sync, but Harris didn't mind.
"He's going to Maryland, so he can definitely ball, and you could see all week he was working hard, so it hurt to see him go down," Harris said. "But one man goes down, the next man goes up."
Two series after Miller's exit, Harris burst through the defensive line and swiped the ball from the quarterback. He then pounced on it, waiting to hear the whistle, before standing up and charging back to the sideline, raising the ball over his head.
"People probably overlook him because he's short," said Arundel coach Chuck Markiewicz, who led Maryland. "But that's why he's so good, because he gets underneath the tall guys. He's go great leverage, he's got a great motor, and he's a great kid."
Harris continued to pester Pennsylvania throughout the night as the team finished with 64 net rushing yards to Maryland's 115. He was also often in the backfield with pressure when Pennsylvania's quarterbacks dropped back because, he said, he mastered the snap count early and beat the offensive linemen to their spots.
Maryland's power waned in the second half as Harris said the heat and length of the game — it took more than three hours to complete — exhausted the players who weren't in typical shape.
"Going back to when we found out we were on the team, I just kept working out and staying in shape," Harris said. "I knew playing in the summertime, it's different."
But Markiewicz appreciated that Harris "never quit" as Pennsylvania opened a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter. When Pennsylvania led by 17 points in the fourth quarter, Harris walloped a quarterback with a hit that led the 6,200 announced fans in attendance to gasp.
So, as Harris' teammates lingered on the field after the game, taking photos and chatting with family members, they lauded his performance.
Just before Archbishop Spalding quarterback Evan Fochtman (Navy) called Harris a "menace," Spalding linebacker Nick Vermillion (Towson) interrupted.
"It's called little-man syndrome," Vermillion said. "You play better when you're on the lower end of the size scale. He had something to prove. That's what happened."