Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Kirk Cousins leads Michigan State Spartans against Georgia Bulldogs in Outback Bowl

Kirk Cousins, the son of a minister who was barely recruited out of high school, will likely set Michigan State’s total-offense record today. “The epitome of a team player,’’ his coach says.

Getty Images

Kirk Cousins, the son of a minister who was barely recruited out of high school, will likely set Michigan State’s total-offense record today. “The epitome of a team player,’’ his coach says.

TAMPA — When the Big Ten fired off an email last summer asking its schools to nominate a player to speak at its kickoff luncheon in Chicago, John Lewandowski fired right back.

Michigan State's communications chief knew the beauty of Kirk Cousins' oratorical spirals.

"As soon as I hit the send button I called (Big Ten assistant commissioner) Scott Chipman and I said, 'Hey, I'm not trying to pressure you, but if you don't pick him, you ought to quit having someone speak on behalf of the student-athletes,' " Lewandowski recalled.

With the help of his dad and Lewandowski, Cousins — the Spartans' fifth-year senior quarterback — spent three weeks crafting a six-plus minute address focusing on the privilege of playing major college football, and the responsibility that accompanies it.

Five months and 170,000 YouTube hits later, people still talk about it.

"I've been experiencing that for four years, so in retrospect, I probably needed to be more like 'Wow,' " Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said.

"But for me, that's the standard that he has set. And when I say our (program's) culture has changed, he's largely responsible for a lot of it. In essence, he promotes excellence, and that's what he did that day."

Meet the Outback Bowl's "other" quarterback.

With much of the pregame attention focused on the homecoming of Georgia starter and Plant High alumnus Aaron Murray, Cousins wraps up his career the same way he commenced it — unassumingly.

He arrived on campus five summers ago with neither a 40-yard dash time nor a major college offer — outside of East Lansing — to speak of. He exits as the program's career leader in wins, touchdown passes, pass efficiency and public appearances.

"I feel like I've given everything I can to Michigan State," Cousins said. "Win or lose (today), I'll be very proud of the effort that I and our program have given over the past five years."

From pulpits to pediatric wards, he has charmed, challenged and inspired. He already has his degree and, barring something catastrophic, will have the school's total-offense record by the end of today's game. He is Tim Tebow on Slim-Fast, Danny Wuerffel with a Midwest accent.

"A lot of people ask me, 'Is he really that good of a guy?' " Spartans senior fullback Todd Anderson said. "But I mean, he's everything you'd ask for. He's a genuine person, strong in faith."

The son of a minister who consults at churches nationwide, Cousins grew up in Chicago but moved to Michigan with his family in time to break virtually every offensive record at Holland Christian.

Yet by the end of his senior season, only Toledo and Western Michigan had made offers. Scouts raved over his throwing technique, but he impressed exactly no one when gauged with a scale or stopwatch.

Dantonio, meantime, was struggling to sign a quarterback — any quarterback — on his recruiting board. He brought Cousins in for a visit because he hadn't seen him compete live, sent an assistant to watch him practice with Holland Christian's basketball team.

"Early impressions were a very polished young man," Dantonio said. "A young man that had definite goals, very goal-oriented, had definite virtues, was very faith-based."

By his redshirt sophomore year, Cousins (6 feet 3, 205 pounds) was the starter. He exits as only the second three-year captain in program history. The meticulous preparation that helped him win the position now has been complemented by physical development.

"He didn't come as the five-star recruit; he came as the guy that was going to get it done," Dantonio said. "He's put on 30 pounds, I think, since he's come, probably grew an inch."

That's merely height and weight. Many suggest there's no way to measure his reach.

Cousins has touched that many.

"There's no question in my mind that he is the epitome of a team player," Dantonio said. "And that's not just in the huddle, it's off the field as well, and he's the epitome of what you'd consider an MVP on your team."

Kirk Cousins leads Michigan State Spartans against Georgia Bulldogs in Outback Bowl 01/01/12 [Last modified: Sunday, January 1, 2012 7:11pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa Bay Super Bowls: A brief history and some predictions for 2021

    Bucs

    At last, Tampa will host a Super Bowl again. It used to be that the Cigar City would host one a decade, but by the time February 2021 rolls around, it will have been 12 years since the epic showdown between the Steelers and Cardinals. Because it has been awhile, let's revisit those past Super Bowls while also peering …

    Santonio Holmes hauls in the game-winning touchdown in the Steelers' 27-23 Super Bowl XLIII victory over the Cardinals in 2009, the last time Tampa hosted a Super Bowl. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
  2. Rays bats go silent in second straight loss to Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Sure, Alex Cobb was to blame for the Rays' 4-0 loss on Tuesday.

    Derek Norris strikes out with the bases loaded as the Rays blow a golden opportunity in the seventh inning.
  3. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Angels game

    The Heater

    RHP Alex Cobb made mistakes on back-to-back pitches to the first two Angels hitters Tuesday, allowing homers to Cameron Maybin and Mike Trout, but otherwise gave the Rays another solid outing, working into the eighth and scattering seven hits.

  4. Rays journal: Brad Miller won't return from DL when eligible

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — 2B Brad Miller (left abdominal strain) will not return from the 10-day disabled list Friday as he hoped. While he took ground balls Tuesday, he has yet to resume running.

    Rays second baseman Brad Miller, left, with infielder Tim Beckham, says he’s letting his left abdominal strain “cool down” before testing it by running.
  5. USF baseball rallies to beat Tulane in AAC tournament opener

    College

    CLEARWATER — With Tulane runners on first and second and two out in the top of the ninth inning Tuesday, USF's dugout watched as burly American Athletic Conference co-player of the year Hunter Williams' fly to left went deep.

    USF outfielder Chris Chatfield is congratulated by third-base coach Chris Cates after hitting a three-run homer in the third inning, tying the score at 3.