Spartan DE Colin Neely Had One Young Fan that Pushed Him for More In 2009

Hondo S. Carpenter

Spartan DE Colin Neely Had One Young Fan that Pushed Him for More In 2009

It isn’t uncommon when you have the best strength in conditioning coach in the country like the Spartans do with Ken Mannie to hear the players reference him after a long off season. He deserves it and has this team in the best shape they have ever been. But for one Spartan DE, Colin Neely, it was a little mid-Michigan young man that motivates him to be all he can be on Coach Pat Narduzzi’s defensive line.

Neely told me of an encounter that had a huge impact on him this off-season at a local mall. “I was in Footlocker buying me some shoes. This young kid walks up to me and recognized me from being a Spartan football player. He was real nice and told me how much he liked the way I play.  His mom bought him these real nice and expensive Jordans and he brought them over to me and asked me to autograph them.” 

 This isn’t the end of Neely’s story, but right there he took a long pause and looked down to regain his composure. “That meant a lot. I told him that I am not anyone special, but he told me that to him I was.” With his composure gained, Neely now had a booming smile that would have rivaled Magic and finished with, “That kid meant so much to me. I thought about him all the time. I want to be the best that I can be. I have kids out there like that who look up to me. I want their parents to be proud that they picked me and I want to be an example. I thought about him all the time. That meant more to me than it probably did to him. I love our fans.  I love being a Spartan.”

Colin Neely is Ready for a Breakout 2009 Campaign  Phot Courtesy of MSU SID
Colin Neely is Ready for a Breakout 2009 Campaign!    Photo Courtesy of MSU SID

And the Spartan Nation loves Neely. Playing for a defensive-minded head coach in Mark Dantonio and a phenomenal defensive coordinator in Pat Narduzzi, Neely understands the expectations that are on him this season. He is a junior and battling David Rolf for a starter spot, and he will have to embrace and exceed expectations for the Spartans to do all they can in 2009.

“This staff teaches you a lot more than football. Don’t get that wrong, they love to coach and are great at it, but they want us to leave here great men also. They teach how to be a man, the way they carry themselves.” Neely’s praise for the fans and coaches show the humble and gentle side of a man whose job it is to blow up offensive lines and cremate QBs and RBs. 

“Don’t get me wrong, I love the game as much as my coaches and teammates. I love the competition we have on this team now. I love the fact that we are getting a whole team of guys at every position who love this game. That makes us better players. Every one of us loves the game. We love being Spartans and we love this program.”

Neely told that youngster standing in Footlocker at the mall as he walked away, “I appreciate you recognizing me.” What Neely is too humble to know is that the Spartan Nation appreciates his love of the game and his embracing the opportunity he has. Neely is one of many that love the game, but he is special to the Spartan Nation and the humility and genuine appreciation he lives doesn’t go unnoticed.  He is what has revived this program; not just the winning, the quality of young men like Neely and his teammates that have embraced the Spartan Nation and their opportunity.

As our conversation ended, I remarked at how good Neely looked physically. “That is all Coach Mannie. Talk about him. He would never give up on any of us.” Even with a passing compliment the humble Neely had to deflect the praise. Ken Mannie is the best Colin, but didn’t lift the weights and do the running, you did. Remember how you thought the kid did more for you? Your attitude means more to the Spartan Nation than you will ever know.

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