In our ongoing series, as we monitor Spring training camps across the country, Last Word on Sports will also be looking back at the elite players in the history of various college football programs, and creating the appropriate “Mount Rushmore” tributes. Today we look at Michigan State.
The Spartans have an interesting football history. They were a dominant program in the 1950s and ’60s, where they won six national titles. Since then, though, national relevance has been rare. The program is once again pushing towards the game’s elite, though. Still none of that necessarily has any bearing on what players or coaches (or university presidents) will stick out as the best/most important in program history.
Michigan State Spartans Football Mount Rushmore
Yeah, there is a coach on this list. Daugherty won four of the Spartans’ national championships (two consensus, two other claimed) and led them to two Rose Bowls in his 19-year tenure. His career record of 109-65-5 might not seem amazing, but the winning percentage was over 70% before the Spartans began declining after their second consecutive split title in 1966. He really moved the program forward and kept the Spartans at their best in their most recent time of national dominance.
Webster was the defensive linchpin of the two national championship teams in 1965-66. Webster was a 2-time All-American and All-Big Ten team selection, earning honors in each of those years. Sports Illustrated selected Webster as the starting safety of their all-century team published in 1999. Webster’s #90 was retired by the university and he is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
Cook’s inclusion might seem a little strange, but it really shouldn’t be. He was part of the driving force that has Michigan State at its current spot in the college football hierarchy. Yes, his career did not end on a high note (to say the least), but his list of career accolades is too long to mention and his 34-5 record as a starter puts him in elite territory. He led Michigan State to two straight major bowl wins (the 2014 Rose Bowl and the January 2015 Cotton Bowl), the school’s first back-to-back wins in consecutive major bowls since winning the 1954 and 1956 Rose Bowls. (The Big Ten had a rule prohibiting schools from playing bowl games in consecutive years at the time.)
There are several more athletes that could have been chosen, including Lorenzo White, Andre Rison, and Bubba Smith, among others. I even thought of mentioning Morten Andersen, one of the greatest college (and pro) kickers of all time. But no, I’m going with Hannah, who never played a down of football at Michigan State University. Hannah turned Michigan State from a college into a university and got it into the Big Ten after the University of Chicago left in the 1940s. He was president of the university for 28 years and is one of the reasons that Michigan State was ever able to become a powerhouse in any sport. He deserves this spot.
Photo credit: Malcolm Emmons/USA Today Sports