After bursting onto the scene in 1990, Tico Duckett left Michigan State following the 1992 seasons as one of the best running backs in program history and now looks back at his time with the Spartans fondly.
Spartan Nation recently caught up with Duckett to talk about his time with the Spartans and his life after football. The Spartan great said, looking back at his East Lansing days, he appreciates having the chance to play in front of the Spartan fan base, something that has been magnified for him since he left Michigan State.
"I think the number one thing that stands out to me now that I didn't understand when I was a student-athlete was being a part of the Spartan Nation," he said. "I understood being a Spartan, and I understood playing the game and winning and doing all of the things as far as Michigan State football. But now that I'm not playing, I realize that there are so many Spartans throughout America that I was playing for, and I didn't realize that at the time. Now, I'm one of them that every Saturday, the kids are playing for us. So that was something that I never got my arms around being a student-athlete."
After arriving in 1988, Duckett rushed for nearly 600 yards as a promising freshman in 1989. He then broke out in 1990, putting together one of the best individual seasons by a Michigan State running back, rushing for 1,394 yards and ten touchdowns on his way to being named Big Ten Offensive Player of the year.
When it comes to his 1990 season, Duckett said that he feels it was a result of the hard work and preparation that he put in the summer before and thought that he was ready for a big performance every time he stepped out on the field.
"This is probably cliche, but what I did feel was that I put in a lot of preparation that summer," he said. "That was one of the hardest summers that I worked and to be able to take that onto the field, and the feeling was almost that everyone was moving slow, and I was moving fast. I think that came with preparation, I was ready to play football at a high level, and you could almost call it being in the zone that year. There was nothing like that feeling because every game you anticipated having a great game and no excuses. There weren't any injury excuses; there weren't any I wasn't prepared excuses; it was more of a 'Let's get on the field and show them what you can do.'"
In his Michigan State career, Duckett totaled 4,212 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns on 836 carries. His 4,212 career rushing yards ranked third in Spartan history, behind Lorenzo White and Javon Ringer.
Following his time with the Spartans, Duckett spent time with the New York Giants and roughly a year and a half with Washington Redskins but walked away from football after being released by Washington.
While he majored in education at Michigan State, Duckett didn't opt to go into teaching following his football career and instead went to work for the Wohlert Corporation back in Lansing, working his way up to being a Senior Buyer in the company.
His success with the Wohlert Corporation helped encourage Duckett to start his own business, Duckett Brothers Distributing, which opened in 1998 and specializes in selling janitorial supplies.
Duckett says that with Duckett Brothers Distributing in its 23rd year of business, there's still work to accomplish. He's proud of his company's success and added that he still applies the same work ethic from his playing days to how he operates his business.
"It goes both ways," he said. "Sometimes, I feel like I'm still in the trenches, I feel like I'm still working - I haven't made it yet. There are other days that you look back and say that for 23 years, you've done millions of dollars per year, and if you add that up, it's $30 million that you've done in revenue. So sometimes, you have to be proud that you started something from scratch, you learned on the go, you've made plenty of mistakes, but you've recovered, and you're successful with clients you've had for 20 years. It makes you feel very good that most businesses don't last longer than five years and it's a matter of what Coach Perles would always say and every time I would go to work, this is what I'd tell myself, 'Work hard, keep your mouth shut, and good things will happen.' That's been my motto all through my business career, and it's just like playing football. It's outworking people, preparing, and if you're preparing, the outcome should be good. So I've kept that same work ethic from athletics to business."
Duckett currently lives in Haslett with his wife Maryjo and his five children (one from a previous marriage). Maryjo, a former teacher in St. John's, now alongside Duckett at Duckett Brothers Distributing.
Duckett's brother, Todd 'T.J.' Duckett, who also played running back at Michigan State and in the NFL, also works with Duckett Brothers Distributing as the company's marketing person and Tico said that it'd been a great experience working with his younger brother.
"We're pretty close, we've been walking this football life together hand-in-hand, and when he was done, he jumped right into the business world with me, and now we've been in business together hand-in-hand," he said. "It's been good. Everyone would think that we're competitive or jealous of each other and always trying to figure out who's going to do what, but we've never been like that. When T.J. was coming out of college, I told him, 'You are to do better than what I did, I'm expecting you to do better, I don't want you to do anything worse.' Some people don't think like that; they want to be the best running back, but I have never been like that, and neither has he. We were never jealous of each other, and we want each other to succeed, and that's how we've worked together."
When it comes to the state of the Michigan State football program, Duckett praised the job that Mark Dantonio did with the Spartans during his 13 years in East Lansing. He added that with new head coach Mel Tucker now taking over the program, he believes that he can lead the program to similar success.
"First of all, Coach Dantonio did an amazing job at Michigan State," he said. "He got that program turned around, he got us into being national contenders, and I can't say enough great things about him and how he treats his kids and how he put together his era. Unfortunately, things like that don't last forever, and now we are into the next era with coach Tucker, and I have full confidence in Coach Tucker that he is going to do the same thing. He's going to get the recruits in; he's a great recruiter. Michigan State has a lot to offer as far as education, as far as being on a stage where you can present your sports talent, it's a school that if your goal is to play in the NFL, it has a great stage to get there with beautiful facilities. I can't see where Coach Tucker will have any problem getting back to beating the Michigans and the Ohio States of the world."
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