COUSINS FOCUSED ON LEADING SPARTANS TO REPEAT TITLE

Bill Marklevits

Captain Kirk is ready to take his Spartans to the Rose Bowl!

Captain Kirk is ready to take his Spartans to the Rose Bowl!

 

Senior QB Kirk Cousins dream is to lead Michigan State to the Rose Bowl. Having knocked on the door last season with an 11-1 regular season record and a shared Big Ten title, Cousins drive to lead the Spartans to Pasadena is even greater.   This spring while in southern California working out with QB coaching Guru Bob Johnson and his son Bret who played QB at Michigan State (1991-92), Cousins went to Pasadena to check out the Rose Bowl Stadium.  He walked around the perimeter of the famous Arroyo Seco bowl shaped stadium then approached a security guard saying, “I am a QB at Michigan State and would you please let me take a look inside the stadium so I can see the field.” The security guard was quick to respond, “Son I can’t do that, the only way you are going to see this field is if you earn your way to play on it.”  After returning to East Lansing and telling the MSU coaches of his visit, defensive back coach and former Spartan All-American Harlon Barnett told the quarterback he was told the same thing by a stubborn security guard when he tried to get a look inside the Rose Bowl.  

Trying to gauge the national prospective of where his team stands heading into the season Kirk Cousins read every magazine and internet article he could find.  The cover of the 2011 Lindy’s Big Ten Preview magazine caught his attention. "I saw a preseason magazine cover which said in the bottom corner, 'Title time for Spartans?' Cousins said. "I wanted to tell them we won the title last year, title time was last year. We're looking to repeat, so we do still feel overlooked and that Big Ten championship was somewhat forgotten by a lot of people, and that's fine. I'm going to try to do it again. I think we do need some people to doubt us.  That is a good thing to have, a healthy thing to have."

Mark Dantonio says Kirk Cousins “is a giver not a taker”.  He has faced competition head on first beating out Nick Foles now the starter at Arizona, and then highly rated Keith Nichol as a sophomore.     When asked whether he would rather have an experienced offensive line or an experienced QB, Coach Mark Dantonio quickly responded “without a doubt an experienced signal caller.” Dantonio then went on to state that not only does the QB have the ball in his hands and direct the play, the QB is also expected to lead the offense in the huddle and also be a team leader in the locker room.   Year after year in college football and even the NFL you see teams rise to the top with steady and productive play at the quarterback position while teams with inexperienced signal callers, no matter how talented, often stumble.

Dantonio well knows that the experience and leadership of his QB is a major strength heading into the 2011 season.  At the most important position on the field he has a fifth year senior that has been a three year academic All-Big Ten selection as well as a rare three-time team captain with a 16-9 record as a starter.  MSU’s previous only three time captain was center Robert McCurry who captained the 1946-47-48 squads.  Cousins who was named to the Big Ten, and Maxwell Award (Player of the Year) pre-season watch lists is already the most accurate passer in MSU football history. Cousins 64% completion percentage and 146.7 career passing efficiency rating sit at the top of the MSU record books.   With similar stats as last season, Cousins should break Jeff Smoker’s career records for touchdown passes (61), passing yards (8,932), and pass completions (685).

Kirk Cousins who dreams of playing in the NFL and is mentioned as a potential top five QB in the 2012 Draft is not worried about statistics.   The only stat that matters to him is winning games, and with only six wins this season he will pass Jeff Smoker with the most wins as a starting MSU quarterback.  Cousins knows the MSU offense is loaded with three experienced proven weapons at each position group.  At WR he has B.J. Cunningham who is just ten catches away from becoming MSU’s all-time leader,  explosive Keshawn Martin and athletic Keith Nichol.  At TE he has Brian Linthicum, Garrett Celek, and Spring Game star Dion Sims and at running back All-Big Ten First Team selection Edwin “Rock” Baker, Le’Veon Bell, and Larry Caper.   The success of this veteran group of playmakers lies largely in part to the success of the rebuilt offensive line.  Decimated by Alabama in the Capital One Bowl, the line will break in three new starters and their collective play will have a major impact on whether the 2011 offense becomes one of the most prolific in MSU history or results in broken players and unfulfilled dreams.

 “I am not worried about personal stats, my job is to be a distributor and get the ball to our playmakers.  If we can win just running the ball that is fine, what counts most is winning games” says Cousins. Two years ago Mission Viejo high school head coach Bob Johnson a founder and long-time coach of the Elite 11 QB camp as well as mentor to numerous NFL and college QB’s told me that “Kirk Cousins will become a successful NFL QB”.   Those are pretty strong words of endorsement from an experienced coach who has sent Mark Sanchez, Carson Palmer, along with his own son Rob Johnson to the NFL.  

Kirk Cousins father Don is a long time Christian minister who was on the staff at Willow Creek Church outside Chicago for 17 years before moving to western Michigan where he now has his own ministry and speaks and consults with churches throughout the country.  Son Kirk’s strong faith was clearly demonstrated after his first start on the road as a sophomore at Notre Dame in 2009.  After passing for 302 yards and one touchdown Cousins was leading MSU to what looked like a late fourth quarter come-back against the Irish. With just 2:58 on the clock and down 33-30, MSU took possession at their own 20 yard line. Looking like a veteran running the two-minute offense, Cousins completed seven of eight passes leading the Spartans to a first down at the Irish 18 with just over a minute on the clock.   On the next play a scrambling Cousins spotted RB Larry Caper who had slipped away from the ND defense and was wide open in the corner of the end-zone but he over threw the pass.  After a time-out on the next play the Irish blitzed and trying to avoid the rush, Cousins threw the ball over the middle that was picked off by ND strong safety Kyle McCarthy spoiling the Spartans come-back attempt.    After the tough loss in front of the media, Cousins was quick to take responsibility for the defeat but said “football does not define me and that my strong Christian faith will be my guiding light.”   Dantonio says, “Cousins strong Spiritual faith allows him to be very calm and self-assured” highly desirable characteristics for a leader of young men in a sport where momentum and the task at hand can swing suddenly in any given game.

As a team leader Cousins is willing to look for personal and team motivation wherever he can find it.  One of his roommates is his older brother Kyle who was a pitcher at Calvin College in Grand Rapids and now works as a personal trainer. "I told my brother, Kyle, the other day to go on the Internet and find every article he could find, every preseason magazine he can find and compile a list of all the quotes, articles, anything that disrespects us or doesn't give us our due," he said. "I want copies made of those and I want to put them in front to the team during training camp. He's already got a pile and believe me, come two or three weeks into training camp, I'll put that up at night and be sure it kindles a fire beneath us."

Each Big Ten team sent three upper class players as representatives to the recent Big Ten Media Days in Chicago, and from these 36 players Kirk Cousins was selected to represent all Big Ten Football student athletes to give the key-note address at the 40th annual Kickoff Luncheon. In front of a McCormick Center Convention Center packed house and Big Ten Network TV audience, Cousins spoke about the “privilege” of being a Big Ten Conference football player.   Cousins a self-professed college football junky said that living his dream of playing college football in the Big Ten has been a privilege.   He said that with that privilege players should avoid having a sense of entitlement and accept the responsibility that the platform of playing college football has given them.  Cousins received a standing ovation for his powerful well delivered speech which Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany applauded as representing what the “student-athlete” is all about.   You can hear that speech at the following web links, http://www.msuspartans.com/allaccess/?media=251268, http://www.bigtennetwork.com/subindex/video

When asked about the future of his QB, Coach Mark Dantonio said that "He's going to be a great husband, a great father, a great citizen and a great senator."  

                                                 P4RB

Michigan State enters the 2011 season as defending Big Ten champions but don’t tell that to Kirk Cousins. This spring the team was given massive Big Ten Conference champion rings which have not been worn by any football players at MSU in twenty years. Kirk Cousins hasn’t worn his though saying “I want to focus on the future not the past. When I am old and no longer playing football I will have plenty of time to wear the ring then.”  What Cousins really wants to do is get another ring.  This off-season he has been talking up “P4RB” with his coaches and teammates.  Prepare for the Rose Bowl, “P4RB” has been printed on T-shirts that the players train in.   Getting to the Rose Bowl has stoked a flame in Kirk Cousins who is totally focused on the process - ”P4RB” of getting to his goal and not the outcome.

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