The Michigan State football program had a particularly enjoyable time catching up with two old friends recently.
Cousins came to join in on the broadcast, while Adams attended the game to announce a sizable donation to the Spartan Stadium North End Zone Expansion Project.
Both spoke to the media after the game, reminiscing about their golden days and looking ahead to the program’s bright future.
“It’s good to be back,” Cousins began. “Driving into campus last night, it felt like a lot of memories were coming back to me. It’s good to be here.”
Cousins enjoyed a highly successful career at Michigan State. The three-year quarterback set records for touchdowns (66), passing yards (9,131), total offense (9,004), completions (723), and 200-yard passing games (26).
So how does Cousins view the current MSU quarterback, Connor Cook?
“Connor played his way into that starting role, and credit to the coaching staff for making the tough decision and the right decision to go with Connor,” Cousins said. “What makes him so special? I think we’re going to find that out the next couple of years, but we started to see it at the end of last year. When you throw for over 300 yards in the two biggest games of the year as a sophomore in your first year starting – that says it all. You see the potential early in his starting career – you’re going to play not to lose. You’re going to allow the defense to win you some games and he was smart to play conservatively. You could see him grow up as the year went on and continue to take over the team more and more.
“That’s what’s exciting for fans is to know they got a taste of what it is at the end of last season and there’s probably going to be a lot more coming these junior and senior years,” Cousins continued. “What makes him special? I think it’s his work ethic, his drive. I see on summer break, spring break, he’s going to train, he’s going to work and he’s always hungry for more knowledge. Anytime you have that mentality, you’re going to go places.”
In part thanks to Cook’s emergence as a solid signalcaller, Cousins believes the program can reach new heights.
“Looking over the roster and doing my homework to cover this game, I feel like this is as stable of a team that they’ve had in all my years of being around the program,” Cousins said. “There just aren’t that many question marks and I think that’s exciting. The bar has been set very high with the success last season. On paper right now, it seems like they have what they need to be able to continue the high standard.”
The one thing the Spartans must be wary of, as Cousins said, is becoming too overconfident.
The Spartan coaching staff, particularly head coach Mark Dantonio, has harped on the idea over the course of the entire offseason, but the players ultimately judge which direction they will head in. So the question remains: can the Spartans handle success?
“The Bible talks about in Proverbs that you don’t test a man with adversity, you really test him with success and see how he handles compliments and how he handles being patted on the back,” Cousins said. “That’s how you really find out what a guy has inside of him. Can he stay motivated? Can he stay working among success? Knowing Coach Dantonio, knowing Coach [Pat] Narduzzi, knowing Coach [Ken] Mannie, I don’t think they’re creating a culture of contentment. I think the culture is always going to be the theme from last year, which is to chase it.
“When you look at the schedule and see Oregon [on the road] in week two, September 6, it’s hard to really get content because you have that challenge looming,” he added. “You know you’ve got your work cut out for you this summer to get ready for that.”
No matter what the Spartans do this season, Cousins gives Dantonio a lot of credit for building a world-class program in East Lansing.
“I think the stability thing goes back to starting at the top with Coach Dantonio. He’s recruited the right kind of people,” Cousins said. “He used to always say that you win with people. So at the end of the day, talent gets you somewhere, but you’ve got to get the right kind of people in and the wrong kind of people out. From the coaching staff he’s assembled to the support staff to himself, they’re just good people and there aren’t people who are negative. They’re people who are positive and are taking this program in the right direction. I think, as a result, that creates stability.”
While people are key, the Spartan Stadium North End Zone Project will certain help the program’s stability.
The expansion project includes a makeover for MSU’s locker room, and also includes adding on a new training room, media center, and recruiting lounge.
With everyone in a festive mood, Adams heightened the joy by announcing a $1.5 million donation towards the locker room.
The former MSU and NFL offensive lineman felt happy to give back to the program and help build a foundation for future Spartans.
“I thought it would be a good idea to make a donation to it so it can move forward with the program. Right now is as good time as any to do that because I’m sure you guys have seen the old locker room, it was pretty ancient,” Adams explained. “But everything that’s being done right now with the locker room, the stadium, the program, the university, it’s a big step forward to the direction that the university and Coach Dantonio, [athletic director Mark] Hollis, and President [Lou Anna K. Simon], that we need to go. I think it’s a good time to do it now.
“I felt that from the bottom of my heart it was a good decision and it was going to help the past, present, and future,” Adams continued. “So to Coach Dantonio, to Hollis, and to the President: thank you for doing a good job for helping us to move forward.”
Cousins and many others were happy to hear the great news.
“I’m also really excited about Flozell’s announcement and the north end zone expansion and being able to create a better game day locker room,” Cousins said. “I don’t know how many of you have been in there, but that locker room was tight. I think it was built to hold about 70 guys and Coach [Dantonio] usually dressed everybody on the team, so you had over 100 guys in there on game day and that was really tight. That’ll be a huge change for the guys on game day and for the recruits to be able to see. It makes a big difference to the overall experience.
Dantonio in particular was overjoyed at the announcement, as he believes the project will make a huge difference for a blossoming Michigan State football program.
“When you have an opportunity now to bring [recruits] into a locker room like this and a game day atmosphere when they watch us play and they visit our players in the locker room before the game, maybe they see it after the game,” Dantonio said. “They certainly see it in the recruiting room, it will just be a great gathering place, not just for our program, but for our entire athletic department. What we’re talking about with a building of this magnitude can make a huge difference.”