There’s been a lot of talented defensive lineman to come through the Michigan State football program in recent years: Jerel Worthy, William Gholston, Tyler Hoover, Shilique Calhoun…the list goes on.
But midway through Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio’s press conference at MSU football media day, Dantonio brought up a stat that just so happened to involve a defensive lineman on Michigan State’s current roster.
“Marcus Rush will be, as long as he remains, stays healthy and continues moving forward, you know, as he always has,” Dantonio said. “He’s going to have the most starts I think in Michigan State football history.”
At the announcement of this stat, heads turn, eyebrows raise. That’s the type of reaction you get when people realize that by the end of this football season, there’s the potential that Rush will have started a mind-boggling 54 games for the Spartans.
This is not to say that Rush (fitting name for a defense end) isn’t deserving of the honor. It’s just a wonder how he’s managed to fly under the radar for so long.
It’s not even that Rush, a 2010 recruit out of Cincinnati, Ohio, was a sparingly recruited kid out of high school, either. When he committed to be a Spartan in January of his senior year of high school, Rush had numerous offers (Nebraska, Michigan, Minnesota, Cincinnati, Indiana, Purdue and Virginia to name a few).
However, ever since he got to East Lansing in the fall of 2010, all he’s done is put in work and has shown up week after week.
After a redshirting in 2010, Rush earned his first start in the first game of the season, where’s he’s been ever since. In the past three years, Rush has started 40 of 41 games, and when fronted with this stat, Rush said it’s certainly something he takes pride in.
“That’s something I’ve always thrived on as just being someone that’s tough,” Rush said. “Coming in as a redshirt freshman I was just trying to get the start. Thankfully it did happen and I’ve stayed healthy ever since so I’m fortunate for that.”
But with superstars like Will Gholston and Shilique Calhoun lining up on the other side of the line throughout his career in East Lansing, the amount of attention Rush has received over the years has been minimal.
“I’m not much of an in the camera kind of guy like Will and Shilique like it,” Rush said about not receiving as much attention by the media. “I don’t really mind it. As long I’m doing my job and I know the coaches are liking what I’m doing on the field, I’m happy.”
And Rush has given his coaches plenty to like over his past three years as starter, racking up 126 tackles, including 27 tackles for loss, 11 sacks and 13 passes broken up.
“He’s done an outstanding job for us,” Dantonio said. “He’s been a very good player and he’s been an impact player for us on the edge and had a lot of big plays for us. Really what we see is what we recruited, a guy who makes a ton of big plays, active with his hands and can force you on the edge.”
Heading into this year, though, a lot of the talk surrounding the Michigan State football program has been keyed on handling success. Following last season’s 13-1 Big Ten and Rose Bowl Championship season, the Spartans have finally reached the level of the nation’s elite and it certainly will be their goal this season to stay at the top of their game.
For the defense specifically, though, having lost six starters from arguably the best defensive unit in the nation a year ago, reloading on that side of the ball will be key if the Spartans expect to make the same kind of noise they did in the 2013 season. But according to Rush, the Spartans have all the tools to do so.
“I think it helps being a Rose Bowl Champion team. You get the idea of what kind of attitude and mindset you have to have coming into this year,” Rush said. “You can’t get complacent with where you’re at and you just gotta move forward and take the experience that you’ve have and use that for the following year.”
And with guys like Marcus Rush on the roster, guys who do nothing else but come to play every day and do their jobs, the outlook for 2014 Spartan football season looks bright.
“We definitely have a team that can go just as far as last year,” Rush said. “As long as we go into this camp with the right attitude, I think we have the potential to be a good team.”