EAST LANSING – Last August, Jacub Panasiuk opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns.
However, after the Big Ten decided to bring football back after initially canceling it, Panasiuk chose to return.
"I came into camp at around like 250 pounds," Panasiuk told reporters Tuesday afternoon. "I was in the best shape I've been in a while."
Then, the senior defensive end tested positive for COVID-19, causing him to lose 25 pounds and experience a significant setback. But, thanks to the extra year of eligibility provided by the NCAA to all fall sport athletes, Panasiuk decided it was best to come back for a fifth year.
"I thought it was unfair to me and my teammates if I just got up and left when I could use another year and come back and help out the team," he said.
Once he started practicing ahead of week one, Panasiuk had trouble rebuilding his body. Even so, he still managed to start six games, finishing with 25 tackles, 2.5 for a loss, and one sack.
Yet, the Illinois native felt 2020 was an uphill battle.
"The coaches and the strength staff just took me through a program to try and get me back into things," said Panasiuk. "I started gaining a little bit of weight but really struggled, couldn't put on much weight."
With new opportunities on the horizon, Panasiuk went through an eight-week strength and conditioning program, saying he's closer to 245 pounds now. His goal weight is 260, but at this point, he's satisfied from a physical viewpoint.
"I still think that, especially with the new strength staff, the lifting, and everything that we do, it's a lot different than what we had before," Panasiuk said. "I think with their help and Amber (Rinestine), our new nutritionist, I think that I could put on a few more pounds."
Spring ball has the 6-foot-4 pass-rusher thinking of new goals. Although, this time, Panasiuk wants to focus less on individual achievements and prioritize his teammates.
"When Dillon Alexander was here, when Kenny (Willekes) was here also, they took me under their wing and just showed me the ropes, showed me how to study a playbook, how to watch film ... Mike (Panasiuk) and Raequan (Williams), they would always look out for the young kids," said Panasiuk. "So I feel like that's what I'm trying to pride myself on and strive for is trying to help out the younger kids develop and just overall become better football players."
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