EAST LANSING — Since being named the starter to begin the 2012 campaign, Michigan State senior wide receiver Bennie Fowler has had an up-and-down 14 months. And even with constant shuffling at the receiver position for the Spartans, his work ethic has failed to change.
Last year, as a junior, Fowler led the Spartans in receiving yards (524) and touchdown catches (4). However, like the rest of the wide receiver group, Fowler had problems hanging on to passes, and inconsistent play led him to being benched in the sixth game of the season against Indiana. Despite being replaced by then-true freshman Aaron Burbridge, the 6-foot-1, 212-pound receiver from Bloomfield, Mich., made his presence felt with a game-winning 36-yard touchdown catch to give MSU a 31-27 victory at Memorial Stadium.
That ability to prosper in the face of adversity and continuous preparation are things that Fowler’s teammates have stated are some of his best attributes as player.
“He’s just a tireless worker,” Michigan State sophomore quarterback Connor Cook said. “He’s always staying after practice, working out, doing whatever he possibly can to get better. He’s watching film, putting in the hours, and he’s just a smart guy that knows the game.”
Similar to last season, Fowler, the lone senior in the receiving corps, began 2013 as the starter, but the same problems from a year ago came back to haunt him — as he dropped three passes in the season-opening game vs. Western Michigan, and was benched in the second game of the year.
He entered last Saturday’s matchup against Iowa with eight catches for 112 yards a touchdown in four games, however, his solid performance at Kinnick Stadium would make you believe that he’s been doing this for years. He had a career-high nine receptions for 92 yards and a 37-yard touchdown catch that gave the Spartans the lead once and for all.
“He showed what he can do against Iowa,” Cook said. “I know he had some other big games… Like Indiana. He came out last year against Indiana, I think he got benched or whatever, and then made the critical touchdown at the very end of the game. Bennie is not a quitter. If he gets pushed down he’s going to do whatever he possibly can. He’s going to fight, claw and scratch to be the guy. He’s just a super-hard worker and he has all the ability in the world, so I knew his emergence was coming.”
With all the questions that have surrounded Fowler and the rest of the receiving corps, many would think that last Saturday’s performance was a fluke, but those that see Fowler every day believe that this could just be the beginning for a guy that fans have been waiting to breakout for quite some time.
“Bennie is one the greatest athletes on the team,” redshirt freshman running back Riley Bullough said. “He’s one of the hardest workers. He’s always in here doing extra stuff. He’s really a leader on our team. It (his performance) doesn’t surprise me, I expect Bennie to do that every week, and he does of himself. I think he’s going to have a big season continuing on.”
The guy that replaced Fowler at the beginning of the year, sophomore Macgarrett Kings Jr., was as ecstatic as anyone to see his teammate and friend finally perform how he and the rest of the team knows he can.
“I was very happy for him,” Kings said. “Bennie is like an older brother to me away from home. I was probably more excited than he was to see him have another breakout game like that.
“I knew it was coming. He works hard, he’s a very hard worker, he studies film, he does all the little things, so when a great thing like that happens to a guy like that you’ve got to be happy for him.”