Q: What was your night like after leaving Lucas Oil Stadium? Who have you heard from?
A: That’s what you’re gonna ask me, what my night was like after winning the Championship? No, it was good. It was full of happiness. That’s the first thing that comes to my mind. Just everybody I saw…going back to the hotel and the fans, coaches, coaches’ families, coaches’ wives, kids, whatever it was, my family, my teammates families…everyone was just happy. Everyone was happy. Everyone was quick to say good game, quick to say good season, good career, all that stuff. To me, it was a symbol of happiness. To me, that’s what makes everything real for me, is seeing everyone else’s happiness, seeing everyone else all smiles, everyone else laughing. I didn’t get back to the hotel until like 3 in the morning and everyone’s parents are still up, waiting to congratulate us. That’s what makes it real for me. That’s what makes it fun for me is seeing everyone else’s happiness.
Q: You’ve said before you don’t really take time to look back on things; you’re just focused on the next opponent. Are you able now to kind of look back and appreciate what you’ve done here in 4 years?
A: Yeah, I try to. Yeah, absolutely. You win a game like that and… Especially for us because I was there 2 or 3 years ago, whatever it was, and we were on the other side of that. I never knew what it was like to be on the happy side, the good side; the team that left that stadium with a smile on their face and not so disappointed. So I try to look back, I try to see… To me, it’s thinking about all the things that we’ve done, not only this year but the last 4 years…for me, I’ve been here 4 years. Just thinking about all that stuff we’ve done, all the things that I wouldn’t have done if I didn’t have to do it. All the times that Coach D has had to get up there and talk to us and figure out something to say. Or the days where he comes and has something great to say to us to get us ready for practice. To me, it’s all those little moments and all those little things that we’ve been through to get to this moment, to get to the point that we’ve always talked about. The Rose Bowl and winning the Big 10 has always been a dream, it’s always been a vision, it’s always been something that… At least I, as a player, I know Coach D’s been there, but I haven’t been able to touch that. I haven’t been able to know what it feels like. I really haven’t known what it’s like to work to get that. What do you have to do to do that? I didn’t even know that. I was just doing the most that I could every day in order to get to that position. Now I know. We’ve made a dream, a vision, a tangible, something we can touch, and something Michigan State can build on in the future.
Q: Since you haven’t been there, are you gonna formulate a game plan of how you’re going to approach it…similar to other Bowl games, maybe a different leadership role…for the young guys? Have you thought that through?
A: For me, it’s who do we play next? People ask what’s the motivating factor to play Stanford and the National Championship implications…all those things you guys ask Coach. To me, it’s who are we lining up against next? When we play anybody out there and if they wanna beat us and we wanna beat them, to me that’s calling us out. I’m just so competitive that if you line up against me, if you line up against our team, if you line up against Michigan State, we’re gonna play, we’re gonna fight, no matter who it is, no matter what the implications are, no matter what Bowl game it is. We’re just competitors. That’s what makes teams great and that’s what’s made us great this year.
Q: Coach D says that you can go from good to great quickly. Obviously success breeds more success. How does it feel to be in the pipeline here at MSU as a positive example for the guys to follow?
A: It feels great. It’s something I’ve talked about a lot the last couple days, especially today and yesterday. In terms of our class, in terms of guys like Blake Treadwell and myself specifically, I know that when I came here I wanted to win games I wanted to go to the Rose Bowl, I wanted to be recognized. But I wanted to leave Michigan State a different place 4 years ago than where we are today. I wanna leave Michigan State at a place where people respect Michigan State. Michigan State’s not a team that’s gonna lose a game at the end or Michigan’s gonna beat them every year or anything like that. I think absolutely if you look at Michigan State‘s program the last 4 years…and 7 years the coaches have been here…that’s not how we operate. That’s not who we are, that’s not how it is. Michigan State’s a team to be dealt with. And good luck dealing with them, in my opinion, in the next couple of years.
Q: How big of a task has that been to change the perception of this program?
A: To me, it’s been… Like I said, when I got here I didn’t know how to change a perception. I didn’t know what to do or how to do it, but to me it’s just been the every day. Just do every day the things we gotta do. Like you said, how do you motivate? What do you mean how am I motivated to play Stanford? They’re next. That’s how we’re motivated to play Stanford. They’re lined up against us and they’re calling us out. That’s how you’re motivated, because you’re that competitive. So if you just approach each day like that… We have an example set for us every day. We’re young kids when you get in here. I’m 21 years old; there’s plenty of days that I’m not fully into it. We have guys like Coach D…and especially Coach Mannie. Just every day, just on it, every day, just on it. What are you gonna do to get better today? It’s Tuesday in the 13th, 14th week of the season. You don’t wanna lift at 5:50 in the morning. But Coach Mannie wants to lift, for some psycho reason. You know? He’s ready to go. So it’s a credit to the players but it’s also a credit to the coaches, just being ready and being ready to go. That’s just the way we operate.
Q: For this Senior class that’s taken Michigan State to a new place, how much is the memory of the 2010 season gonna be delivered? Coach D has said that if you don’t play well against Stanford then a lot of this season does get taken away from you. Is that something that the Seniors that were on that 2010 trip might emphasize?
A: Number one, we’re gonna play well. We’re gonna play well, we’re gonna play Michigan State football as we’ve played all year. So I’m not worried about that. Number two, yeah absolutely. For me, there’s an asterisk next to that season. For me, it’s because of Alabama and because we split the Championship three ways with another team. We weren’t even able to play. This year we did it the hard way. We played every team that they lined up against us. We’re 9 and 0 in the Big 10. We played Ohio State. What everyone talked about was # 2 in the country, 24 and 0, new coach, no one can beat them, they’ve got too many good players. And we beat them. We went out and did it. We didn’t have to play somebody else and then Ohio State lost to this team on a fluke and all that. We went out, we played them, we squared them up, and we won. So there’s less of an asterisk because of that. But regardless, we’ll be ready to play. That’s the main focus of this football team. That’s what’s gotten us to this point and that’s what we’ll do in the future.
Q: Last night Narduzzi came racing out of the press box to the field when it was 24-17, and when he got down there you played better defensively. Was that just coincidence or did he settle you guys down?
A: Settle us down is the wrong term. He’s just an emotional factor, he’s an emotional figure in our defense. He’s a guy, people say… People ask me, Why is Coach Narduzzi so good? Why is he so much fun to play for? To me, the main thing, besides all the film and game playing and all the stuff that he does is unbelievable, it’s the emotion. That guy, he might as well be playing the game for when he talks to us before the game. With the emotion that he talks with, the way that he calls plays, the way that a certain play affects him, the way a loss affects him, a win affects him…he might as well be playing. It’s that emotion, at least for me I can speak individually, that’s what I feed off of. When a guy’s emotional about it, when a guy cares about us so much that he kinda loses it a little bit, that’s when it’s real. And that’s what it’s like for every player, every payer in that room. You talk about a guy that’s emotional in Coach Narduzzi…just to further that point, we got it in Coach Barnett. When he talks to the team…he doesn’t talk every week…but when he gets going, like before Michgian or before a big game like yesterday, you feel that. There’s something different about that. It means something. It’s not so much the words that Coach says, it’s the meaning behind it. Does he really mean that, is that genuine? Does he genuinely wanna win just because? In Coach Barnett’s case, Coach Barnett just wants to win genuinely because he’s a Spartan dog. He wants Michigan State to win. So those are the things that motivate us. And Coach Narduzzi is right there.
Q: That affects how you play then.
A: Absolutely. When he comes down there it changes our whole mindset. Whether it’s good or bad, when you see Coach Narduzzi come down there you know it’s about to get real. It’s a very important game. It opens the line of communication a little better. It’s easier to talk. Me and him can talk, he and whoever else can talk. It allows us to make adjustments a little bit quicker and we’re that much better.
Q: You and Coach Dantonio enjoy a unique relationship. Aside from football, can you tell us what he means to you on a personal basis as a man?
A: Coach D has been an example for me. If you’re talking outside of football, he’s been an example of what kind of man you should be like, what kind of person you should be like. Most of all, what kind of dad, father, husband, whatever it is, you should be like. Sometimes I look at Coach D and I’m like, Man he’s just so level-headed, so smooth, so cool. I can’t be like that. I’m too messed up, you know? As much as anything, for me, he’s been an example. He’s been someone I can look at and just really watch him and see what he does, see how he acts. I know his wife, Mrs. Dantonio, pretty well and we’re pretty close too. To just be involved in that family from the perspective that I have, he’s just a great example for me of how to do things, how to do things the right way. Coach D’s a guy that’s always… I think you look back at all the crap we went through. The incidences, the fights, the wins, the losses… Coach D is a guy that will stand up here and shoot you straight. He’ll tell you what the right thing is to do and do that. Do that because it’s the right thing to do, not because you guys like it, not because ESPN likes it, not because Mark Hollis likes it. Do it because it’s the right thing to do. And that’s something that I’ll take from the University. That might be the best thing that I get from here, even though we’re going to the Rose Bowl. That might be the biggest thing I take from this place.
Q: Specifically on Stanford…have you been able to see them at all?
A: I haven’t watched any film, obviously. We just got back a couple hours ago. I know they try to be a physical football team. I know they try to run the ball. I know they’ve got a bunch of guys out there that take pride in that. I know that’s what coaches sell when they recruit kids. I also know what Michigan State has; I know what Michigan State sells and who we are. So we’ll be ready to play whether they run a bunch of powers and isos, or they try to run a bunch of power passes and jag routes. We’ll be ready to play and do what we do.
Q: You tweeted today that not many teams out there do what you guys do, that style of football. Do you have more respect when you see a team that kind of has the same philosophy?
A: I’ve got respect for anyone that plays football because I know how much time and energy it takes. Apart from that I have respect for anyone that does this and plays this game. But yeah, I have a little bit added respect for a Coach who (?) a team that tries to emulate that, tries to stick with that, tries to play with that. But mostly a team that can do that and win. You can do it all you want and lose. But a team that can stick with that and have that hard-nosed mentality, run the ball, great defense…to me that’s great football. I’m a little bit of an old school guy, but to me that’s football. Stanford’s a team that’s been doing that pretty consistently. So is Michigan State. It’s gonna be a good battle and we’re excited for it.
Q: Stanford is a school that does things the right way. Is it even more enjoyable when you play a team that does it the right way and aren’t cheaters?
A: I enjoy playing football. I enjoy playing a team…to me, I enjoy playing a team that thinks they can come out and beat us. I respect them from an outsider standpoint, for what they do, for how they carry themselves. But that changes a little bit when they’re the matchup, they’re the team that we’re playing against. I don’t really care what they do, who they are. It’s about Michigan State at that point and I’m excited to play and beat them. When I watch them on ESPN and watch the players, yeah I respect them and say that’s a team that does things the right way. But when they come to play Michigan State, I’m worried about what we’re gonna do and what we’re gonna do to beat them.