Michigan State University gives out their top athletic award, the George Alderton School Athlete of the Year award, to the most deserving athletes of the University annually.
George Alderton was a prior sports editor of the Lansing State Journal. He is credited for bequeathing Michigan State’s athletic teams with the famous “Spartan” nickname in 1926.
In 1925, Michigan State ran a contest to replace the nickname of “Aggies” and chose the new nickname of “The Michigan Staters.”
Being that Alderton was a writer working for LSJ, he thought this was a bit too awkward and wanted to find a more fitting nickname for the University to incorporate into his writing.
When Alderton discovered that the University was still accepting entries in the contest, he came across the name “Spartans” and knew it was a perfect fit for Michigan State.
The name “Spartans” was then used in local newspapers, and eventually spread across the University.
Unfortunately it still remains a mystery of who actually submitted the “Spartans” entry into the contest, but nonetheless the name stuck and is still used today.
It was not until 1926 that Michigan State’s first southern baseball training tour provided a public opportunity for recognition of the new “Spartan” nickname.
Over the past twenty-nine years this award has been given a mere 7 times to the most impressive and elite athletes on the Michigan State Football team. These young men are recognized for their outstanding achievements on the football field, ranking them at the top in Spartan football history.
The recipients of this award resemble a true “Spartan” on the football field, giving them the honor to receive this title.
Not only did all of the recipients have outstanding collegiate athletic careers, but they also went on to have professional athletic careers as well.
1) Carl Banks (1984)
While attending Michigan State University, Carl Banks was not only the Football team’s only captain and a three-time All-Big Ten first-team selection, but he also earned All-American honors his senior year in 1983. Banks went on to be a third overall draft pick for the New York Giants. In his career with the Giants, Banks helped the team win two Super Bowls. He then joined the Washington Redskins in 1993. He finished his career after two seasons with the Cleveland Browns in 1995, playing a total of 12 seasons in the NFL as linebacker. Banks was later inducted into the Michigan State Hall of Fame in September of 2012.
White is arguably the best running back in Michigan State Football history. While at Michigan State, White had forty-three rushing touchdowns, twenty three one hundred yard games, and 4,887 career rushing yards (ranked fifth all time in league history). He was named first-team All American two times. White helped the 1988 MSU football team attend and win their first bowl game since 1966, beating out USC in the Rose Bowl with two touchdowns. He was the first Big-Ten Conference running back to complete a 2,000-yard season with 2,066 yards overall. White was a first-round draft pick for the Houston Oilers in 1988. He had an 8-season career, playing 7 years with the Oilers and 1 year with the Cleveland Browns, completing a total of 30 touchdowns in his NFL career.
Todd Krumm is the only Michigan State Athlete of the Year recipient that not only was a member of the football team, but also the baseball team while at MSU. Krumm was awarded first Big-Ten selection and second team All-American during his career with the Spartans. During his senior year, Krumm helped the Spartans win the 1988 Rose Bowl against USC. Krumm entered the MLB draft and was chosen by the New York Jets (1987), and the Seattle Mainers (1988), where he played in the Minor League for 2 seasons.
While attending Michigan State University, Percy Snow became the first college football player to receive both the Lombardi Award as the top lineman, and the Butkus Award as the top linebacker both in 1989. Snow was a two-time first-team All-American and three-time first-team All-Big Ten selection. He was recognized as player of the game in the 1988 Rose Bowl, leading the team with seventeen tackles. He was selected as a first round draft pick to the Kansas City Chiefs (no. 13 overall). Percy Snow entered the class of 2013 College Football Hall of Fame.
Rogers received the Fred Bilentnikoff Award recognizing him as the top receiver in the country, and the Paul Warfield Award as the nations top collegiate wide receiver. Rogers was also a first-team All-Big Ten in 2001 and 2002, and a unanimous first-team All-American in 2002. He had thirteen consecutive games with a touchdown catch, which broke Randy Moss’s record. Rogers holds the Michigan State school record for the most receiving yards in a single game (270). He entered the 2003 NFL draft and was selected second overall by the Detroit Lions where he played until 2005.
Smoker is the only quarterback in Spartan History to receive this award. While at Michigan State, Smoker completed thirteen 200-yard passing games. He also helped the Spartans compete in the Alamo Bowl in 2004 and the Silicon Valley Bowl in 2001. Smoker ranks in the top five of MSU history for total yards (second), passing yards (third), touchdowns passes (fourth), and pass completions (fifth). Smoker was drafted in the sixth round in the 2004 NFL draft by the St. Louis Rams.
Greg Jones was the only Athlete of The Year on the MSU football team to win this award two consecutive times. Jones was also the first Spartan to win back-to-back first-team All-American honors in 2009 and 2010. He also won first-team All-Big Ten honors three times. While at Michigan State Jones started forty-six out of fifty-two career games, leading the team in tackles for four straight years, making himself the second Spartan to ever accomplish that. The New York Giants selected Jones in the 2011 draft where he was a Super bowl champion that same year. Jones has also been a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tennessee Titans.
Bell is a three-year letter winner for the Michigan State Spartans. During his career at MSU, Bell helped the Spartans attend three Bowl games (The Capitol One Bowl, The OutbackBowl and the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl). He had a career total of 3,346 rushing yards, and a total of 33 touchdowns in his 40 career games, which ranks him 6th in MSU History. In the 2012 regular season, Bell had the most rushing yards in the Big Ten. Bell also had twelve career 100 rushing yard games. He was selected first-team All-Big Ten in 2012. Bell opted out of his senior year at MSU, and entered the 2013 draft where the Pittsburg Steelers selected him in the second round.