EXCLUSIVE: Jonathan Smith, MSU Football's Most Recent Addition Had Unlikely Journey to the Spartans

Special teams are criminally underrated, and the Michigan State Spartans just added a player whose journey to get there was nothing less than a grind. In this Spartan Nation exclusive, Jack Wentz describes his grind to wear the Green and White.
Dec 31, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Michigan State Spartans long snapper Taybor Pepper (52) before the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2015 CFP semifinal at the Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 31, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Michigan State Spartans long snapper Taybor Pepper (52) before the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2015 CFP semifinal at the Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Special teams are important, just ask the Michigan Wolverines. The Spartans have a good special teams unit, with punter Ryan Eckley earning freshman All-American honors last season from the Football Writers Association of America. Now, the Spartans will have a new long snapper to play a role in the special teams for seasons to come.

Jack Wentz announced on Wednesday that he had committed to Michigan State, but he has actually been with the team for a little while, partaking in summer practices. When I spoke with him, he had just finished group practice with Eckley and other special teamers.

Wentz's journey to East Lansing cannot be described by anything other than a "grind." He was recruited out of high school to Lenoir-Rhyne, a Division II school in North Carolina. He told me he red-shirted, was there for six months, and then he transferred closer to home to D-II West Georgia.

At West Georgia, Wentz battled an injury and put his name in the transfer portal when the school made the leap to Division I FCS football. He described receiving a medial redshirt. A new staff had come in, and Wentz said he knew "it was gonna be a mess."

Wentz spent nearly a year in the transfer portal, taking online classes, working out, training with his long snapping coach Kyle Stelter at Special Teams University in Wisconsin.

"I'd trained every day, did his drills every day, and then I'd fly up twice a month in person to work with him," Wentz said.

During a visit to Arkansas, Wentz was called by Spartans special teams assistant coach Joe Begnal. He knew of Begnal from his time at Colorado State. Begnal told Wentz the Spartans were interested, and that night Wentz FaceTimed the coaching staff.

"The coaches are perfect and I can read that off them," Wentz told me.

Wentz visited East Lansing not long after he was first contacted, and he said he knew it was home.

"The atmosphere is great," Wentz said. "I love Jonathan Smith. He's great. He comes down and talks to us every day. Just everything about the program is super neat. It's very put together."

Wentz said he was granted a medical exemption for his season at West Georgia and has four years of eligibility left.

Michael France is Sports Illustrated's Michigan State recruiting beat writer, covering all things Big Ten recruiting for Spartan Nation. Be sure to follow him on Twitter/X@michaelfrancesi for exclusive Spartans recruiting coverage.

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Michael France

MICHAEL FRANCE