Player facts are an announcer’s best friend. With broadcasts typically running in the neighborhood of three hours, it’s tough to blame them. They are a quick, easy way to give a tidbit of off-field information that familiarizes viewers with more than just a player’s jersey number. Unfortunately, every once in a while a fact is reported so often it starts to become synonymous with the player, defining them more than their on-field performance.
Over the course of a 12, sometimes 13-game schedule, diehards go full circle on the player fact. Early on, they are legitimately interesting. By week 5, you’re muting the broadcast during player intros trying to avoid them, only to be bombarded during a lull in the third quarter. By week 10, you’re betting your buddies on when Brent Musberger will mention John L. Smith’s journey up Mt. Kilimanjaro (Smith, ineligible for this list because he’s not a player, might as well have changed the ‘L’ to Kilimanjaro for the rest of his tenure at MSU after the excursion).
Michigan State is certainly not an exception to this rule, and they’ve had a couple of storylines quickly reach broken-record status. Here are the most-frequently reported Spartan storylines of the past decade:
Matt Trannon plays football too!
In the mid-2000s, Matt Trannon pulled double duty for the Spartans, playing wide receiver on the gridiron (and being a particularly dominant target in video games—seriously, you could chuck it up and he’d go get it—the dude was so big he’d cover half the damn field) and an undersized forward on the hardwood. He was a Musberger favorite during basketball season, with the legendary announcer frequently mentioning his time on the football field as well as declaring “Touchdown Spartans!” whenever Trannon dunked.
Jehuu Caulcrick escaped war-torn Liberia
The bruising back who teamed-up with Javon Ringer to form MSU’s version of ‘Thunder and Lightning,’ Caulcrick racked up 21 touchdowns his senior season, but his on-field accomplishments never eclipsed the fascinating story of his journey to America (he left Liberia when he was nine, after father was assassinated and with the country embroiled in a civil war). While it’s clear that his story is inspiring and more interesting in any other context, it might be more appropriate to talk about his work on the gridiron DURING A FOOTBALL GAME.
Drew Neitzel is ambidextrous
This one is a little more understandable, because it actually pertains to his game. Neitzel, the undersized guard who carried Tom Izzo’s squad through much of the 2006-2007 season including that crazy upset of top-ranked Wisconsin. Neitzel’s frequent use of both hands (he’d drain lefty threes and right-handed runners) became an obsession for both fans and announcers alike (it even inspired a short-lived attempt to improve my own left-handed game, which was of course a massive failure). As frequently as the announcers loved to mention Neitzel’s ambidexterity, defenses never seemed to get a hang of his dual-threat shooting style.
Max Bullough’s status as a Spartan Legacy
This should illustrate how pervasive these facts are: I used this one in my last piece about Michigan State’s defense. Bullough, who followed his grandfather, father and uncle to East Lansing, is the definition of a Spartan legacy. Luckily for Max, he’ll get live out both sides of the story, as his younger brother Riley is set to arrive this on campus this fall. So take a deep breath Spartan fans, you’ve got at least four more years of Bullough-mania!
Keith Nichol was Sam Bradford’s backup at Oklahoma
Easily the most obnoxious fact of them all, Nichol’s former status as Sam Bradford’s backup was mentioned so frequently it almost seemed like it was part of his last name. When the freshly transferred Nichol and Kirk Cousins were engaged in a quarterback battle at the outset of the ’09 season, everyone was quick to point out that Nichol had lost his previous QB battle with Bradford, who went on to be the number one pick in the NFL Draft. Even worse, the guys in the booth often found Nichol’s time at Oklahoma a perfect opportunity for a joke, saying something along the lines of “Keith Nichol, who last lost a position battle to some guy named Sam Bradford… what’s he doing these days?” Keith eventually switched over to wide receiver, which added yet ANOTHER wrinkle to his story. Thankfully, he made the biggest catch of the year last season (the Hail Mary against Wisconsin, in case you suffered brain damage since then and had somehow forgotten), and was relegated to “former quarterback.” Something tells me he didn’t mind.
While all of these athletes have made their way into Spartan lore through their performances on the field, something tells me (or has already told me, over and over and over again) MSU fans won’t be forgetting these storylines anytime soon.Back to the Michigan State Spartans Newsfeed