After an unforgettable four years at Michigan State University, the football program will be graduating a total of 18 seniors this year. That’s a big gap to fill on the depth chart, but one player in particular will leave an even bigger hole in Spartan Nation’s heart.
When the Spartans take the field in East Lansing next season, it will be hard for many fans to watch a game without quarterback-turned-hero Kirk Cousins.
Cousins is graduating from Michigan State with 27 wins as a starter, 723 pass completions and 66 career touchdown passes, all of which are Spartan records. Those numbers, however, are not the reason fans will miss him.
Cousins, a three-time captain, also brought Spartan Nation a Big Ten title, their first bowl win since Clinton was in office, and a spot in the inaugural Big Ten Championship. All wonderful accolades, but neither of those are the reason he will be missed by those who bleed green, either.
Cousins did great things for Michigan State and the football program, but what he will be remembered for goes far beyond the end zone he frequently threw to. Instead of touchdowns and big wins, Cousins will always be remembered for the man he was and the character he possessed.
You can replace a good arm with no problem, but finding a college athlete who carries himself and treats people the way Cousins does is nearly impossible to come by.
I will always remember Kirk Cousins, as he was the first big-named athlete I ever interviewed.
After being a diehard Michigan State fan my whole life, it was a surreal feeling to go in and interview players during their spring open media day. Walking around alone with my note pad and voice recorder, I was nervous, lost and even intimidated by the athletes and big-name news stations there.
But then the nerves went away in a meeting I will never forget.
Trying to get some quotes for a story on Arthur Ray Jr., I asked Cousins if he had a quick minute. As I uncapped my pen and turned on the voice recorder with my hand shaking like it was made of Jell-O, Cousins reached out his hand. Instead of simply answering questions, Cousins shook my hand to introduce himself to me (like he needed an introduction), got my name and then asked if we had ever met before.
For a big-name college athlete to take time to introduce himself and calm down a nervous rookie interviewer is something I will never forget, but to everything else he does, that was nothing.
Aside from being the second three-year captain in Michigan State history and leading his team to a brilliant four years, Cousins makes his name outside of East Lansing.
Cousins has logged a lot of volunteer hours in the pediatric ward at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing as part the Spartan Buddies Program, and he also works the Sparrow Children’s Miracle Network Telethon.
Meeting fans young and old that are battling illness and injury in the hospital is something many Spartan student athletes do, but no one participates in the program more than Cousins. When Cousins heads to the hospital to visit children, he is more excited to see them than they are to see him.
Even back in his hometown of Holland, Michigan, Cousins goes out of his way to treat an autistic friend of his to lunch at least a couple times a year. Cousins is all about putting people first, but he still goes above and beyond giving people personal attention.
If you saw his speech at the Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon, you already know how great of a public speaker he is. After speaking of privilege, honor and thankfulness, he displayed everything that is right about college sports and student-athletes.
Cousins talks so fluently and powerfully, he could inspire the Joker to make amends with Batman.
Being a devout Christian his entire life, Cousins takes a Tebow-esque route to convey his message. He often visits churches and youth groups to talk to them about how his faith has brought him to where he is today. Earlier this year on campus, he spoke to more than 2,500 Michigan State students about his faith, causing a big buzz in East Lansing, but leaving everyone who attended with a positive night.
Cousins said in his famous speech that it was a privilege to play Big Ten football. Now that his time in uniform is done, we can all look back and realize how privileged we were to watch this man make a difference in people’s lives, on and off the field.