ANN ARBOR - Two promising football players who first displayed their skills on local high school fields hope to get the opportunity to crack the starting lineup at the University of Michigan this fall.
Scott graduate Willis Barringer and Monroe alumnus Pat Sharrow both said they are in the best shape of their lives.
Barringer, a 6-foot, 202-pound junior safety, has played in 21 games and started five. Sharrow, a 6-4, 301-pound sophomore offensive lineman, has not seen any action after injuring his foot last fall.
Each was ecstatic to be playing for a storied Division I college program that is just a short drive from home.
"I'm living a dream right now," Sharrow said. "[Monroe] is 40 minutes south of Ann Arbor, so all you heard about growing up is Michigan football. I'm blessed."
Sharrow said he attended many games at Michigan Stadium as a child.
"I knew all along where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do," he said. "I've just been fortunate."
While Sharrow is battling for his first appearance on the offensive line, Barringer started at free safety as a redshirt freshman in 2003, making 23 tackles and breaking up two passes.
"I take a lot of pride in coming out and representing Scott and Michigan," Barringer said. "I just want to contribute as much as I can. I just like going out and playing for Michigan."
Barringer is challenging free safety starter Ryan Mundy for playing time. The Scott standout was a key contributor on special teams and a leader last season, Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said.
"Willis Barringer is one of my favorite football players here at Michigan because he brings a great enthusiasm and a great energy every day," Carr said. "A year ago, he was one of our very best special teams players. He is a guy whose teammates know is going to give everything he's got.
"He's developed into an outstanding leader. Willis Barringer is my kind of guy."
Barringer was an All-Blade player at Scott, where he posted 85 tackles, 10 interceptions and nearly 2,000 yards rushing.
"I take pride in playing hard and fast," he said. "I want to go out there and hit people. I want to play football the right way."
Barringer is backing up Mundy, who ranked fifth on the team with 51 tackles last season and intercepted two passes.
"He's the starter. I just want to push him as hard as I can. That will make me a better football player," Barringer said. "I can handle the pressure. There are a lot of fans out there, but because I've played here I have the experience to handle it. It's a lot of fun. My family comes up here and cheers for me. It's real good that they're in the vicinity."
Sharrow also hopes to play before his hometown fans. Those hopes were dashed when he tore ligaments in his foot in fall camp last August that required two surgeries.
"It's tough because you want to be out there but you can't. But I've worked hard in the weight room and conditioning, so I've benefited from that," he said. "I'm all fixed up now. I feel good. It's the best I've felt since it happened. I'm looking forward to the chance to go out and compete. I have some ground to make up, but I've sat in on all the meetings and I've gotten stronger."
Sharrow is stuck behind four returning linemen, including two at his guard position, Rueben Riley and Matt Lentz. But Sharrow also is in the competition for the long snapper position.
Sharrow, who was an all-state and All-Blade player at Monroe High, said it was very difficult to watch the Wolverines play on television last fall. He could not travel with the team because he couldn't even stand.
"[Playing at Michigan] is everything you expect and then some," he said.
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