Spartan Nation 2013 Yearly Awards
Spartan of the Year: QB Andrew Maxwell
Andrew Maxwell is one of the most popular players on the 2013 football team. When Maxwell was relieved of his starter’s duties he could have divided the team. His teammates waited not wanting to hurt him and followed his lead. While he must have certainly been reeling inside, the amazing Maxwell focused his energy on helping his replacement improve. He continuously helped Cook be his best and demonstrated what might have been the single most impactful and amazing performance of a player who played very little.
The Spartans would not be Big Ten champs or Rose Bowl champs if not for Maxwell. He led by example, and how his teammates felt about him when he wasn’t starting or playing is a testament to his character.
I spent time in an exclusive one on one interview with Mark Dantonio late last year and shared with him my sentiments about Maxwell. He said, “Yeah, I think you’re right. You’ll get a lot of guys who had a very important role in this football team. But Andrew could have taken a step in a different direction. He was completely unselfish and gave to the team. So he took a step back and then also allowed the football team to move forward. He’s been nothing but positive, doing his job, competing on a daily basis. He’s done tremendous things for us.”
Andrew Maxwell is an amazing story of what is good in people and athletes. How he handled 2013 and the success MSU experienced because of him makes him our Spartan of the Year and it will be a very long time before anyone tops this performance.
Coach of the Year: Mark Dantonio Football
Dantonio has single-handedly restored MSU football to a place many thought was unattainable. He delivered a Rose Bowl appearance and a victory to the Spartan Nation. Overcoming a struggling offense he was able to let his all-world DC Pat Narduzzi handle that side of the ball as he set out to right the offensive ship of what would be a Rose Bowl Champion team.
In the field and off, he led a group of 105 testosterone filled young men not only on a football journey, but on a life journey. His CEO approach aided by his “lead from the front” philosophy earned him trust, loyalty, and success.
Male Spartan of the Year: Kevin Cope D MSU Soccer
Cope led the Spartans to the Elite Eight anchoring a terrific defense that was the equivalent of what the Spartan Football defense was on the gridiron.
The Spartan D had an amazing 13 shutouts this season while setting a single season MSU record for wins with 14. Cope had a great roster of talented teammates, but on that roster he was elite and the best.
Cope is a special player, but it would be unfair to his family to only talk about him as an athlete. He is a better person than an athlete and we know he is elite as a player. Cope brings not only great athletic talent to the Spartan Nation, but he is somebody who long after his soccer career is over will continue to impact his community because of the young man he is.
Female Spartan of the Year: Helen Knull head coach Field Hockey
Knull is a native of Scotland and her accent makes that clear, but trust me when I say this alumnus of Kent State is 100% Spartan. One of America’s elite and young coaches, she is a powerhouse of production.
A mix of the fire of Tom Izzo and the silent assassin that is Mark Dantonio, she is respected and liked by her team. She is a great strategist and does a magnificent job of evaluating and developing talent.
Her Spartan squad won the Big Ten Tournament and then dropped NCAA powerhouse Syracuse in the first round of the tournament. Her Spartans finished the season 6-1 in their last seven games and if MSU can retain her around East Lansing, she could rewrite all of the record books.
Her team of young ladies may not look like hulking football players, but they have the same toughness and fight that wears out opponents. Knull has the perfect personality for a head coach in that she is determined, focused, and smart, but also is engaging and kind when dealing with people.
She is tough as nails and demands her team get better. Her team trusts her because when they do what she says, they improve.
Interview of the Year: Tom Anastos Head Coach Hockey
When Anastos was hired, Spartan Nation explained that unlike football and basketball, hockey recruiting is so accelerated that it would take three seasons before Tom Anastos could really make the impact necessary to change the direction of Spartan hockey.
The cupboard wasn’t bare when he arrived; the cupboards had been torn down and burned. He is getting great young men and true stars like Johnny Draeger and others to buy in, but he hasn’t even started year three yet.
Spartan Nation has bought in. Fans are going to the games, and every time we interview Anastos you folks clamor for more. Earlier this year he and his staff joined me for an entire radio show from Munn Arena and we got the single largest email response to one show in our history.
Affectionately called the senator because of his ability to swipe away questions he doesn’t want to answer like Jake Hildebrand his goalie swipes away shots, fans have embraced and love Anastos and what he is doing. Let there be no doubt that he is our interview of the year because of you people and how you respond to him.
He is a winner. He will restore MSU hockey to greatness and he will do it the right way. In a world of political meatheads, our Senator is the real deal. A great coach. A better husband, father, and man.