MSU To Pick Captains Thursday - Big Shoes To Fill

MSU To Pick Captains Thursday - Big Shoes To Fill

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MSU To Pick Captains Thursday - Big Shoes To Fill

The Spartans will select the 2018 team captains this Thursday. Whoever the players are that are selected, they’ll have enormous shoes to fill after the job done by their predecessors.

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On August 25th, 2007, first-year head coach Mark Dantonio announced that his players had selected the captains for the 2007 season.

Strong safety Travis Key, running back Jehuu Caulcrick, offensive tackle Pete Clifford, and linebacker Kaleb Thornhill were the four Spartans charged with leading the program into a whole new era.

It was a challenge for those four players.

Not only were they recruited by and coached by the dismissed John L Smith, they were chosen to be responsible for, among other things, ridding the program of the losing culture that had become like the aunt and uncle that are still in the guest room on Wednesday after they were supposed to depart on Sunday morning.

It’s hard to think back to that time but one of the most important moments that sealed John L Smith’s fate was the 2006 collapse against Notre Dame on the night of that never-to-be-forgotten monsoon that accompanied a never-to-be-forgotten loss.

Michigan State had established leads of 31-14 and 37-21 before surrendering 19 unanswered 4th quarter Irish points on that night.

That night, as had been the case on so many other occasions for so many years, the Spartans lacked leadership.

And while Michigan State merely fell to 3-1 with the loss, the loss felt like the beginning of the end for that era as soaking wet Spartans filed out of a gut-punched Spartan Stadium like zombies.

Those four 2007 Spartan leaders – Key, Clifford, Caulcrick, and Thornhill – began what has become as strong of a tradition within the Dantonio Era as beating UMAA.

That tradition is the meaning, influence, and responsibility of the captains that are selected just prior to each season.

That 2007 team ushered in the Dantonio Era by turning around a team that had fallen apart en route to a dismal 4-8 season in 2006 after the promising 3-0 start.

A 7-6 season with a trip to the Champs Sports Bowl (a hard-fought 24-21 loss to #14 Boston College) set the stage for the next ten years.

And the leadership provided by the team captains that season instilled the right mindset, a belief in the new direction, and a newfound commitment to the spirit of what Dantonio was establishing.

Ever since then, the captains of the Michigan State Spartans have been true leaders that have taken their responsibility to heart – on and off the field.

In looking at some of the names of Spartan captains over the years since that initial season of 2007, it’s hard to ignore that each of these Spartans has been responsible for moving the program into elite status:

Kirk Cousins, Aaron Bates, Greg Jones, Max Bullough, Kurtis Drummond, Shilique Calhoun, Travis Jackson, Darien Harris, Jack Allen, Riley Bullough, Demetrious Cox, Brian Allen, and Chris Frey.

That list of names includes some of the most successful and well-respected Spartans in the history of the program.

Kirk Cousins raised the bar and set a whole new level of expectations for the role of the captain within the program by the time he was selected for the third time in 2011.

Kurtis Drummund showed very clearly that an All American (First Team, Football Writers Association of America) could lead on and off the field as he made sure No Fly Zone t-shirts were sold out all through the 2014 season.

Shilique Calhoun led with his ferocity on game days, his commitment on the practice field, and his friendship and charisma off the field en route to a Big Ten Championship and College Football Playoff appearance in 2015.

But perhaps the captains who had the most important impact on the Spartan program over the last decade+ were last year’s lunch bucket workhorses – Brian Allen and Chris Frey.

Frey and Allen would probably be the first to say that neither of them was born with the type of God-given ability or good looks that would lead them to being on the cover of Sports Illustrated due to Olympian grace and skill.

These were guys who achieved everything that they earned through grit, determination, commitment, discipline, and hard work.

In other words, Allen and Frey were – and always will be – guys that, perhaps, best represent what it means to be a Michigan State Spartan.

And when we consider that exactly one year ago there were many folks who were suggesting that the Dantonio Era was in the process of fading out, it’s remarkable to look at the tangible results that Allen and Frey practically willed the program into achieving in 2017.

That 2016 flameout of a season now seems like a generation ago – but it’s a good thing that it remains a vidid memory for the program and it’s a good thing that Allen and Frey saw how and why that 3-9 played out the way it did.

The divisiveness in the locker room was as much of a symptom as the lack of productivity at quarterback.

The deterioration of the foundational elements of the program played as much of a part of that season’s misery as the inability to convert the 2-point conversion against Ohio State.

The selfishness that permeated the team filtered out to the practice field and out on to game day.

And Chris Frey and Brian Allen kicked all of that dysfunction out and into the gutter once the team became theirs to lead.

Mark Dantonio has spoken at length about the strength of the 2018 team’s chemistry.

Oftentimes, talk of chemistry and camaraderie is overblown and a team’s success ends up depending on the talent, the game plans, the health of the roster, and of the “regular” factors that go into winning and losing.

But due to the way Dantonio has built the foundation of this program, he’s turned it into something different than programs in places like Ann Arbor or Columbus or South Bend or Baton Rouge or Austin or Norman.

At Michigan State, where the climb up the hill is a bit harder than at the other places where the blue bloods go to work, guys need to pull for each other and they need to keep the atmosphere healthy, spirited, and full of vim – just like the fight song says.

And whoever the players are that end up being selected as the 2018 captains for the Spartans, they’ll have a lot to live up to after the job done by just about all of the captains that came before them.

Particularly Brian Allen and Chris Frey.

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