November 29, 2013

3rd Generation Gem

EAST LANSING - Max Bullough likes to call it his ''sick mind.''

The one that for the better part of three seasons has led Michigan State's defense to national prominence and helped the Spartan program to two 11-win seasons with a chance for another before he plays his last game in an MSU uniform.

But what Bullough, aptly named "The Computer" for his knowledge of his position and his side of the ball, calls sick, Spartan fans will celebrate as a ''beautiful mind'' when all is said and done.

And in classic Bullough mindset, even as he celebrates with 17 other seniors during their final walk out of the Spartans Stadium tunnel on Saturday before the No. 11 Spartans face Minnesota at noon, there will still be unfinished business.

"When you look back at camp, we weren't sitting in there saying we wanted to be Legends champs. When I had my senior speech, I didn't say I wanted to be Legends champs, I didn't say I wanted to go the Big Ten championship, I didn't even say I wanted to go to a BCS game, I said I wanted to win the Rose Bowl or go to the national championship. So, like I said, in my sick mind I just keep (doing) what we call, working on next. We're just working on next and right now, next is Minnesota.''

A master of his position, his craft and his leadership, Bullough has been known to even correct his own coaches on defensive tendency calls.

And for as much of a stickler as he is and has been for details, No. 40 has even broken the rules to make sure he continued to be one of the best, if not the best ever at his position during his tenure in East Lansing.

The 24-hour celebration rule after a victory.

"I have a sick mind and I can't stop thinking about the next game,'' he said. "We win the Legends championship (last week against Northwestern) and I started thinking about Minnesota. That's just the way I think and the way I do things. I'll remember (all of the accomplishments) later.''

On Saturday, the 6-foot-3, 245 pound MIKE linebacker will take his final walk out of the tunnel and with what is expected to be a career that exceeds 300 tackles, including 30-plus tackles for loss, and could produce double-digit career numbers in sacks and pass breakups, Bullough will only cement his third-generation Spartan legacy.

But as much as the numbers, the dedication, the commitment and the leadership will say about the two-time captain, the Spartans success on defense under his watch will say much more.

And more is what Bullough has always wanted and hopes to be part of when it's all said and done.

"As far as my legacy, as a team, I want to bring Michigan State back to the Rose Bowl. When I was a kid, all I wanted was for people to talk about Michigan State. I wanted people to recognize Michigan State, I wanted people to not think Michigan was going to beat Michigan State every year.

"And it's kind of like the argument of who's better, Michael Jordan or LeBron James but I want people to talk about this defense. At least be in the argument that this is the best defense to come out of Michigan State.''

And eventhough Bullough is adamant about that recognition for the Spartans' defense, he still has one more goal to achieve before he puts his MSU jersey in a home display case.

"Like I said before, when I was a kid, I just always wanted people to talk about Michigan State. I wanted people to not be able to bash Michigan State because they haven't been here or they haven't done this in this many years. I think we've made steps forward and progress towards that and the Rose Bowl is just that next step. It's that last hump that us and so many other teams are trying to get over. It's one of the hardest things (to do) in college football and that's what I want to do.''

Always a Spartan

You could easily say that offensive guard Blake Treadwell never had a choice when it came to where he was going to play college football.

With a father, Don Treadwell, who served as offensive coordinator at MSU and a godfather in Mark Dantonio who is the team's head coach, Treadwell was probably a Spartan even before he made it official.

"I always wanted to come to Michigan State to play, especially when Coach Dantonio was here. My heart and soul was set on going to Michigan State when I was in high school.''

And while it wasn't always easy, Treadwell, the self-proclaimed emotional leader among his teammates gave that heart and soul and earned every moment of glory and success he has experienced during five seasons in East Lansing.

Battling back from two season-ending injuries and a position change from defense to offense, Treadwell have carved out a legacy of his own when it comes to perseverance, emotion and determination.

"You go through so much coming to college football as a freshman and not knowing. You have your ups and downs and I had some downs, everybody has their downs, but I've been very fortunate and blessed. Beating Michigan was a high point for me but it's always been about moving forward. This journey's been long but it's gone well. It's been very defining.''

His reward, not only to be a starter and a captain but to be part of a group that has forever changed the perception of what MSU football means on the national stage.

"Not a lot of people remember names but they remember what you did your senior year. We still have more to accomplish but what we've done so far has been quite the turnaround, especially from last year (when the team finished 7-6).''

And despite the hardships that occurred along the way, Treadwell exemplified what it means and meant to be a Spartan under Dantonio's regime.

The tears that ran down his face as the clock ticked down on MSU's dominating win over Michigan told you all you needed to know about how much his time, effort and hard work meant to him and the success that resulted from that commitment to being a Spartan.

"Coming in as a freshman, I had a totally different mindset as far as my goals. I thought I would be staying on the d-line but going through the changes like I did, I can honestly say at the end it was very rewarding. And hopefully it just keeps getting better.''

From unknown to well known

One of the most celebrated stories that will come out of Senior Day will be the final Spartan Stadium walk of cornerback Darqueze Dennard.

Dennard, from a small town in Georgia, has risen from being a little-known two-way prep player no one knew about or bothered to offer a scholarship - the only offer he had from mid-major Middle Tennessee State was taken away before the Spartans offered him a full ride - to a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation's best defensive back.

"This means a lot because when Coach D offered me he told me that you're going to playing for bowl games and for a championship,'' said the team's leader in interceptions and pass breakups. "So it's just been a great feeling knowing that what your coach said was going to happen, actually happened.''

In that regard, Dennard nicknamed "No Fly Zone,'' has come to represent what MSU and its defense is all about - 11 guys, no matter what they're backgrounds - coming together for a common goal.

That goal has made him a highly-rated NFL draft prospect and in the process changed the way people look at MSU.

"My senior class, we did a lot of great things and had a lot of great accomplishments,'' said the first team All-Big Ten selection who could finish in the top 10 all time in interceptions. "Now we can go out as the winningest class and go out undefeated in the Big Ten season. So it's just a great feeling knowing what we've all contributed and just knowing the legacy that we're going to leave.''

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