The last time anyone really watched Connor Kruse play football was in the 2010 MHSAA State Championship. He set the Twitter world ablaze as he mashed and battered all over the field leading the Lowell Red Arrows to state championship glory.
Kruse had an array of division one full ride offers, but his heart was in East Lansing. Mark Dantonio’s track record of rewarding a worthy walk on with a full ride is reminiscent of how Tom Osborne built Nebraska into a glory program and that appealed to Kruse. Kruse with the blessing of his parents who would carry the financial burden, walked on at MSU.
He told Spartan Nation back on February 1, 2010 that both he and the coaches wanted him to one day earn a scholarship, “They want me to get it and I want to get it, I just have to work hard to get it.”
Spartan Nation broke the story that early last season Coach Dantonio rewarded the hard working Kruse with a full ride scholarship. It was an amazing moment.
Spartan Nation recently spent some time with MSU head coach Mark Dantonio and he said of Kruse that, “Connor Kruse travelled last year. He’s in that position right now where he’s fighting for playing time. That’s difficult because we have a lot of guys back, but he’s a tough guy, he knows what to do and he’s physical. We have a lot of guys, we have numbers on our offensive line and that’s a positive thing.”
Kruse now stands 6’4” and weight 310 pounds. Ken Mannie has done him good as he has also grown solid.
Kruse earned his first varsity letter last season primarily on special teams to go along with that scholarship. As spring football gets ready to kick off he knows there is more.
When I caught up with him recently he told me about the moment Coach Dantonio rewarded him with the scholarship, “That was probably one of the happiest moment of my life. I walked in there and thought I was in trouble. When you are called in his (Mark Dantonio’s) office you don’t know what to expect. I walked in and he told me he was going to give me a scholarship for my hard work. I was more excited for my parents, because my goal is bigger. I want to play. I just know that this would help my parents so much because I was on scholarship. I was ecstatic for my parents. I got emotional for them, not for me. I was thinking about them.”
Kruse is a terrific young man. Not hard to figure out when you meet his amazing family. His parents Erick and Sue are wonderful people and although they weren’t football fans prior to Connor picking up the game, they love it now.
The amazing part of this story is NOT that Kruse got a scholarship. Yes, that is a phenomenal achievement, but there is plenty more. Erick and Sue are certainly not desolate, but they are hardworking American people. For this Middle America couple it was a big risk to tell their son that with the high cost of education he cold forgo scholarships other places to pursue his dream at MSU.
At the time of Kruse’s choice his father Erick told me, “When you become a parent I think it is normal to want them to see and achieve their goals. Connor is a great son and if his heart is at Michigan State I would do anything to see that happen.”
It is impossible to find Kruse’s lovely mother Sue not with a smile, unless you see her in tears which she can turn on fast. With a perky personality that would make even Katie Couric jealous, she told me over two years ago about Connor’s choice and the price she and Erick would have to play, “I love being a mother and a wife and I am truly blessed. I would do anything for my children.”
I caught up with Sue for this article about Connor’s success and you could see the smile through the phone. She said, “We were just happy for him. He achieved a goal he really wanted. We are just so proud of him, how hard he worked and how much he wanted it. Coach Dantonio granting him a scholarship was amazing.” She added, “It was not a sacrifice. He is our child. That is what parenting is.”
Sue can claim it wasn’t a sacrifice, but that is hard to accept. She and Erick had to skip bowl games and trips along with making other sacrifices prior to Connor’s scholarship. We took a moment to pause the interview as she admitted tearing up and getting emotional. Finally she said, “Yes we missed some things, but Connor didn’t. That is what matters. That is what makes being a parent so rewarding, and now we look forward to making those trips.”
Kruse told me for this article, “Right when I got out of Coaches office I headed to Jenison Field House to sign and get my scholarship. I called my mom who was at the hospital with my grandpa. I couldn’t understand her; it was just tears of joy. I couldn’t understand a word, she was just bawling. I told her I would call her back later so I could understand her. My dad was really happy, basically saying he was happy, but he knew that wasn’t the end of my goals. My dad said that, ‘The scholarship isn’t what we want keep working.’”
Superficially you can see the Kruse family and enjoy their son’s athletic success from afar. Or you can dig deeper and see it is about much more. Mark Dantonio is fond of referring to the MSU “Football Family.” He is right. It is. There are so many amazing people, not just the players or coaches that make the MSU football family special.
Connor is a very good football player who will get his shot, but the biggest reward in his life is being a Kruse. It doesn’t take a village, but it does take great parents to make special people. The sacrifice of Erick and Sue led to Connor realizing part of a dream. He isn’t happy just being on scholarship, but with the amazing example of great parents I expect a lot more.
Congratulations Connor on an amazing family. You are blessed to have them as role models and guides. Oh yeah and the scholarship too. Now get back in the weight room. The Spartan Nation is blessed to have the Kruse’s.