When #5 Michigan State announced its three captains for the 2018 season, there were no surprises to those in and around the football program on Thursday afternoon.
Junior quarterback Brian Lewerke, junior linebacker Joe Bachie, and senior safety Khari Willis will serve as captains this fall and Spartan Nation caught up with all three players and head coach Mark Dantonio to discuss the news.
Dantonio said that the Spartans chose to move forward with three captains simply because the team’s voting showed three players that stood out above the rest.
“What we’ve always tried to do is look at the votes and total them up different ways, weigh them in different ways and see if there’s a strong message,” he said. “Last year, there were two, this year, there are a very strong three and there’s nobody close to being a fourth. So that’s why there’s three, not four because it gets filtered out and there are so many people getting votes, it gets a little bit displaced.”
A season ago, Michigan State used just two captains, center Brian Allen and linebacker Chris Frey, two players that were apart of Michigan State’s 3-9 season in 2016 and were key in the Spartans’ turnaround in 2017.
Much like Allen and Frey, Willis also experienced the ups and the downs that Michigan State has gone through in the last few years and said that he feels that makes not only him, but several others qualified leaders for this year’s team.
“I would hope so, I’m not exactly sure, but I think just going through those things as a team and as a group - not just me, but as a group - there’s a lot of other guys that I’m sure coach would say could have been captains for us,” he said. “I think that what we went through, our time being here, whether it’s four or five years, that’s definitely going to play a role in the things that we know.”
Bachie, who not only emerged as one of the Big Ten’s best linebackers in 2017, but as a leader as well said that he was excited to learn he was named captain, but added that the title of captain will not change his approach on and off the football field.
“It’s an honor, your team thinks of you so highly and they trust you to lead the team,” he said. “But it’s an awesome achievement, but I’m not going to change who I am because I’m a captain now, I’m going to stay the way I am. That’s why I got voted captain.”
While Lewerke is on the offensive side of the ball, he said that he sees strong leadership qualities in both Bachie and Willis, that makes them both good choices to be captains along with him.
“Joe, I think, he’s a very confrontational person,” he said. “If you do something wrong, he’ll get in your face and tell you you’re doing it wrong. And Khari is just very good at talking, he can naturally talk - like you saw at Big Ten Media Day. He’s a great speaker and just a great person to be around.”
After an outstanding sophomore season under center, Lewerke continued to take on more of a leadership throughout last season and into the offseason and became an obvious choice to be a captain this fall.
While Lewerke comes off as more of a calming personality, the junior signal caller said that he has a fiery type of personality that isn’t often seen, which is something that Bachie hinted at earlier on Thursday, and also said that he’s grown into a leadership role as someone who isn’t afraid to address things when needed.
“I don’t know, I guess I can snap sometimes and flip the switch,” he said. “I feel like I come off as kind of a nice person, not really a yeller, but sometimes I can yell. I think I’ve grown into a position of talking to people and trying to address stuff. Most times, I was kind of shy and just let it go, but I think I’ve done a good job of addressing things that happen.”
Lewerke also added that to receive a vote of confidence from his teammates to be a captain this year is both an honor, but a motivating factor as well.
“It felt really good,” he said. “To be voted by my teammates is a big honor, it’s very humbling, and I’m ready to lead them the best way that I can.”
Willis told reporters that he often sees good, strong leadership qualities from Lewerke and sees him as someone who is capable of being out at the front of the team and in the public eye and someone who can be a strong influence to teammates behind the scenes as well.
“Brian has leadership qualities, he stands up, he speaks his mind,” he said. “I feel like he’s more of a guy who will get out in front of the team, but he relates to everyone well. He goes and talks to the guy that maybe people haven’t talked to or the guy is going through something, he’s really, really good at that. I feel like he’s humble as well.”
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