Harlon Barnett on Returning to East Lansing for a Third Time

McLain Moberg

Harlon Barnett, the defensive backs coach for Michigan State, never thought he'd return to East Lansing after leaving the university to play in the NFL for seven years. Yet, here he is back for the third time.

"I remember the first time after graduating from here, my wife and I always used to say, because we met here at Michigan State, we'll leave State at State; that's our college years and probably would never live here and when we come back to visit; it was just like normal alumni would do," said Barnett.

His prediction fell through. Barnett didn't come back to visit East Lansing like "normal alumni" do when they are feeling nostalgic. Instead, he returned to coach the defensive backs from 2007-2017, under former head coach Mark Dantonio, eventually becoming the defensive coordinator.

"Then the next thing you know we're back with Coach D after many, many, many years and we enjoyed ourselves here; we really did. Then to come back, this time was even more welcoming in some aspects, just based off of how the prior two years went," Barnett said. "We're excited to be back – it's a great place, a great college town. Always really loved the East Lansing, Lansing area from the time I first came up here on my official visit back in 1985."

Barnett is inheriting a group of defensive backs who lost their number one guy, Josiah Scott, to the NFL Draft, where the Jacksonville Jaguars selected him. But for Barnett, it comes down to coaching his guys up.

"We're working with some guys that have the ability to get it done, and it's just a matter of coaching them up, building their confidence and knowing that they can get it done," says Barnett.

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