Ready To Pounce Matt Macksood (2), Cooper Rush (9) Lead Lansing Catholic Cougars
Makes The Tough Calls As Top College Umpire
Credits Red Cedar Days For Super Bowl Success
VO L •3 ISSUE O8 SEPTEMBER
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FEATURES 10 COUGAR TOWN
Abern-Ball A Winner Yet Again
BY DAVID HARNS
14 STICKING TO IT
MSU Field Hockey Family Driven To Excel
BY CAMILLE DAGORN
20 MAKING MAYHEM
From Football To Boxing, Seth Mitchell Has Game
BY BRITTANY McCORMICK
24 LEAVING HIS MARK
Ditsworth Has Done It All As Ump, Ref, Coach
BY FRED HEUMANN
His Heroes Were Here
Dungy’s Path To Greatness Shaped By Days In East Lansing BY CHIP MUNDY
05 My Favorite Month September Is Made For sport, Sports Fans BY JACK EBLING
34 Back Where She Belongs After World Travels, Bowen Finds MSU A Perfect Fit BY ANDREA NELSON
08 Fever Pitch!
Laid-Back Sport Produces Big-Time Passion BY BRENDAN DWYER
36 Spartans Do Dreams + Action = Victory For MSU
BY SCOTT WESTERMAN
Volume #3 • Issue #8 SEPTEMBER 2011
EDITOR Jack Ebling Jack has covered sports and more as a writer and broadcaster in Mid-Michigan since 1978. A three-time Michigan Sportswriter of the Year, he was a 2006 inductee into the Greater Lansing Area Sports Hall of Fame. He has contributed more than 125 pieces for national publications and is the columnist for a popular website (michiganstate.247sports.com). The former English teacher and coach spent nearly a quarter-century as a beat writer and columnist for the Lansing State Journal and won 21 major writing awards. A two-time graduate of MSU, he has lived in Greater Lansing for 37 years. With his wife, Robin, he has helped raise two remarkable young adults, Zach and Ali.
CONTRIBUTORS Chip Mundy Chip has spent his entire life in Mid-Michigan and always has had a passion for sports. He spent more than 25 years in the sports department at the Jackson Citizen Patriot and covered everything from Super Bowls and World Series to Little League Baseball and the rodeo. Chip’s first book, “Michigan Sports Trivia,” was published in November of 2010.
Fred Heumann A 30-year sportscaster, Fred has spent his entire career in Michigan. Currently the sports director at WLNS-TV, channel 6, in Lansing, he spent 17 years in TV and radio in Detroit and is a multiple award winner, including an Emmy in 1993. Currently a resident of Lansing, Fred is a graduate of Central Michigan, a baseball lover and a fan of the sacrifice bunt.
Greater Lansing Sport Magazine is published monthly by Sport Community Publishing with offices at 617 East Michigan Avenue, Lansing, Michigan 48912. Postage is paid under USPS Permit #407. Subscriptions: One copy of the Greater Lansing Sport Magazine, is mailed complimentary to qualified business addresses in the Greater Lansing metropolitan area. Residential, promotional, out-of-area and additional subscriptions are available for $36 per year (a saving of 40% off the $5 cover price per issue) by mailing a check to Sport Community Publishing or paying online at www. SportLansing.com. When available, back issues can be purchased online for $10 each. Postmaster: Address changes should be sent to: Sport Community Publishing, 617 East Michigan Avenue, Lansing, Michigan 48912. 4 SEPTEMBER 2011
Publisher Camron Gnass Sport Community Publishing Editor Jack Ebling Assistant EditorS Andy Flanagan Andrea Nelson WRITING Camille Dagorn Brendan Dwyer Jack Ebling David Harns Fred Heumann Brittany McCormick Chip Mundy Andrea Nelson Scott Westerman COVER Photo Alan Holben PhotographY Mark Ditsworth Greater Lansing Horseshoe Club Andy Frushour Alan Holben Tom Hogan/Hoganphotos Indianapolis Colts Steve Manuel/USO Photo Paulette Martis Matthew Mitchell MSU Alumni Association MSU Athletic Communications Tyndale House Publishers MAGAZINE Design & LAYOUT Traction www.projecttraction.com Mailer ICS Editorial Office 617 East Michigan Avenue Lansing, Michigan 48912 (517) 455-7810 www.SportLansing.com Copyright © 2011 Sport Community Publishing All rights reserved.
My Favorite Month September Is Made For sport, Sports Fans BY JACK EBLING
Every month of the year has advantages. But I’ve always been a bit partial to September – so much so that I wish it could swipe a 31st day from January or July. Weather-wise, month No. 9 is about as good as it gets for golf and all sorts of games. It’s summer’s last gasp and autumn’s greeting. It’s also the month that best signifies what Greater Lansing sport is all about. In September 2008, at the urging of Mike Price and John Young from the Greater Lansing Sports Authority, this magazine was born – the vision of creators Don Loding, Chris Holman and current owner Camron Gnass. They’re the ones who recruited me to join them in a great adventure. After signing a letter of intent, the goal was to get sport to a championship level. And that has happened in the same time it took Tom Izzo and Jake Boss Jr. to rule the Big Ten. I laugh at the memory of a mini-monsoon when we shot our first cover – “Daring to Dream,” with four quarterbacks: the Detroit Lions’ Drew Stanton, Michigan State’s Brian Hoyer, Lansing Everett High’s Reggie Williams and Holt seventh-grader Austin Kent. And I smile when I look at the second issue that October – “Eyeing Perfection,” with then13-year-old gymnast Jordyn Wieber. Now a mature 16, she won the U.S. championship on Aug. 21 by a whopping 6.15 points. We’ll see her at the Olympics next summer in London. Before that, we’ll have lots of other individuals to introduce in these pages. We’ve already profiled athletes in more than 100 different sports and presented their stories in words and pictures to nearly 2.7 million readers. This month, that mission continues with a two-part salute to the boys of fall and the sport of football – America’s National Passion. Yet, we still found time and space for pieces on horseshoe pitching, field hockey, heavyweight boxing, baseball umpiring and women’s basketball, plus a look at what it means to be a Spartan. We kick off the high school season with a cover story and sidebar on Lansing Catholic, a serious threat to reach the MHSAA Football Finals in Ford Field. David Harns’s story and Alan Holben’s photos give us an inside look at inspirational
coach Jim Ahern and two of his stars, quarterback Cooper Rush and do-it-all Matt Macksood. Ahern’s personal journey makes you pull for the Cougars, regardless of your religious leanings. And if you haven’t seen Rush and Macksood, they’re worth triple the price of admission any Friday night or Saturday afternoon. In one of my favorite stories this year, Chip Mundy takes us back to the East Lansing days of his friend, Tony Dungy, a superior all-around athlete who moved to Jackson when his father’s studies at MSU were complete. From there, it was on to the University of Minnesota, an NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers and a Super Bowl triumph as coach of the Indianapolis Colts. It’s hard to find anyone with a bad word to say about Dungy. But he had plenty of good ones to say about his days at Red Cedar Elementary and his romps in Jenison Field House and Spartan Stadium. A boy who dreamed of playing for Duffy Daugherty is now an amazingly complete man. We take an inside look at the MSU field hockey family, thanks to first-time contributor and former Spartan player Camille Dagorn. She shows us how a program can persevere through coaching changes and other adversity if people stick together. Another first-time writer, Brittany McCormick, brings us up to speed on linebacker-turnedpugilist Seth Mitchell. If he hadn’t been forced to quit football after knee injuries, the former MSU standout could be playing on Sundays instead of inflicting punishment on Saturday nights. WLNS-TV Sports Director Fred Heumann returns with a profile of a man for all seasons, Mark Ditsworth. The ex-Tulsa football player has been a head coach at Eastern High and an assistant at Grand Ledge in the fall. In the winter, he’s one of the area’s top basketball refs. And in the spring, he’s as good as it gets as a baseball ump. I expect him back at the College World Series very soon. Our “Spartans Will” piece spotlights former Dansville High and MSU basketball star Lindsay Bowen and her recent love of physical fitness. Andrea Nelson visits with the best long-range
shooter in school history and a pro in the WNBA and abroad. Brendan Dwyer fills us in on another group of elite competitors who’ve chosen to come to Mid-Michigan this month. Labor Day weekend means a labor of love for the best horseshoe pitchers in this country, attracted to the region by the Greater Lansing Sports Authority. Our Finish Line guest column comes from Scott Westerman, associate vice president for alumni affairs and executive director of the MSU Alumni Association. The author of an inspirational, new book, A Spartan Life, reminds us what it means to be green-blooded. All that content is a celebration of turning 3-years-old, an age a lot of publications never see and a milestone some critics said we wouldn’t reach. Instead, a stable of writers and photographers continues to grow, as does our list of advertisers. If I had one wish for the publication, it would be for another eager salesperson or two to work with new business partners. As I look back on the last three years, a lot has changed for me, too. I’m a grandpa now and one of Mary Rachel Lester’s biggest fans. I’m no longer hosting “Ebling and You” and “The Jack and Tom Show” on local radio. But I’m writing for a terrific new website – michiganstate.247sports.com – and working on book No. 6, Heart of a Spartan, due out this winter. I’m also beating cancer and grateful for the hundreds of people who’ve asked about my health. And beginning this month, I’m hosting a new, hour-long sports show, “The Press Box,” Sunday nights at 11 on WLAJ-TV, ABC3, with plenty of audience interaction and a partnership with this publication. In 12 short months, we’ll be back here as a 4-year-old. That’s about the age when most of us start school. But the staff at sport has been learning from Day 1. Our classroom has been a receptive community. And may that education never end. H SEPTEMBER 2011
Send Us Your Photos! www.SportLansing.com Published photos will receive a poster commemorating Your Shot, courtesy of Capital Imaging.
Monkey-ing Around Wet weather couldnâ€™t stop 101 competitors from nine states in the Monkeyball World Championships on August 6th at The Old Orchard in Dimondale. Photographed by ANDY Frushour
greater lansing sports authority
Fever Pitch! Laid-Back Sport Produces Big-Time Passion BY BRENDAN DWYER
When Randall Kamm retired, he, like so many who reach that eagerly awaited stage of life, was looking forward to spending more time with his friends. They liked to golf. He gave it a try. It wasn’t for him.
8 SEPTEMBER 2011
weekend that’s normally really slow for our local restaurants and hotels.” While pitching horseshoes may conjure laidback images of sipping lemonade and shooting the breeze at a family picnic, these tournament pitchers take the sport seriously. They put in hours of practice to compete in tournaments locally and across the state. “I’ve pitched horseshoes for years, but it took time and a lot of work to be tournament ready,” Kamm said. “I’ve gone from nearly killing the scorekeeper with a bad pitch when I started to hanging right in there with competitors who pitch 70 to 80 percent ringers every time.” Despite the proficiency with which Kamm and other top competitors pitch, there are many varied skill levels among the broad range of divisions within tournaments. Young competitors in the Cadet Division are as young as age 6. And many in their late 80s are pitching competitively in the Elders Division. Youth pitchers win patches and trophies at the tournaments, while adult Men, Women and Elder Division competitors earn prize money. While both are satisfying for the victors, there is something more that is gained at every tournament. “The long-time relationships that are made within clubs and at tournaments are fantastic,” Kamm said. “Horseshoe pitchers are such friendly people. I’ve met hundreds of new people from all over the state. And I look forward to seeing them when big tournaments bring us together. It’s great to win and get bragging rights, but the best part is the friendship and camaraderie.” Through his involvement with the GLHC, Kamm has learned that he has passion for pitching and for developing the sport and helping to bring more and bigger tournaments to the area. Kamm and Price know that Greater Lansing has the winning formula to host everything from
Labor Of Love Randall Kamm put a lot of hard work into planning the State Horseshoe Tournament in Greater Lansing for Labor Day Weekend. the upcoming state tournament to an eventual Horseshoe Pro Tour event. The Elder Division will open the tournament on Friday, Sept. 2, with regular tournament play from 8 a.m. to dusk on Saturday and Sunday. Top ranked pitchers will compete Labor Day morning, with awards and closing ceremonies to follow. “We welcome spectators and are always thrilled when we can turn a new person on to the sport,” Kamm said. “Pitching horseshoes is a low-cost, family-friendly sport that helps create friendships that can last a lifetime. If you can get that out of a sport, you’re doing all right.” Better than all right – sounds like a dead ringer. H
Photography GREATER LANSING HORSESHOE CLUB
“You go out on the golf course, and everybody is so spread out,” Kamm said. “Everything is quiet, and you can only really socialize between holes or after the round. Then, you have the expense. Golfing isn’t cheap. And when you play like I do, the money spent felt like a waste.” Kamm took some time to look into a new way to enjoy his hard-earned freedom. He found it one day walking in a local Lansing park when he came upon some horseshoe courts. “I thought about how I hadn’t thrown in years,” Kamm said. “I looked into it, saw that there was an established horseshoe club in Lansing, joined and have been involved ever since.” When Kamm says involved, he’s just being modest. After five years of membership in the Greater Lansing Horseshoe Club, he is now the president and a big reason why the State of Michigan Horseshoe Tournament is coming to Westside Park in Lansing for Labor Day Weekend 2011. The tournament will bring over 100 horseshoe pitchers plus family and friends to the area from Sept. 2-5. It hasn’t been held in the area for six years despite the fact that, according to Kamm, Greater Lansing has some of the best horseshoe courts in the entire Midwest. The Michigan Horseshoe Pitchers Association and its sanctioned member, the GLHC, both felt a return to the Capital City was long overdue. Mike Price, executive director of the Greater Lansing Sports Authority, couldn’t agree more. “Great events like this are able to happen because of some key elements,” Price said. “First, you need the facilities. Then you need the expertise and support of a great local club like the GLHC. Add to that the connections and event-planning support of the GLSA, and you have a fun and successful tournament which brings hundreds of out-of-town guests to Greater Lansing on a summer holiday
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A L U M N U S
cougar to Ahern-Ball A Winner Yet Again BY DAVID HARNS
“Get run over slowly.” That’s the blocking assignment that Coach Jim Ahern gives to his Lansing Catholic offensive line. With a goal for his no-huddle team to get rid of the ball in 2.5 seconds on each play, Ahern says the line doesn’t have to dominate. It just has to have good enough feet to get in the way and to allow others to work in the open field.
10 SEPTEMBER 2011
“Physically, we aren’t very big,” Ahern said of a 2011 team that could be Greater Lansing’s best candidate for an elusive state title. “Our biggest kid last year was 230 pounds. And we played 4 teams whose lines averaged above 270.” It might not be typical football strategy, but it’s the way it is at Lansing Catholic. Though the players are still undersized, a Hall of Fame coach has found ways to emphasize their strengths and hide their weaknesses. It’s impossible not to notice the team’s two brightest stars, Central Michigan-bound quarterback Cooper Rush and favorite receiver Matt Macksood. And there was a time when no one noticed the Cougars. When Ahern was hired in 2009 by Athletic Director Rich Kimball, that year’s senior class had won just two games. The juniors hadn’t won any. But that all changed when Ahern implemented his innovative offensive scheme and got buy-ins from the players. A 28-20 victory over Jackson Northwest in their first game avenged a 41-13 defeat from the year before and set the tone for the program. “The whole attitude of the kids was different after that,” Ahern said. After finishing 6-3 in his Lansing Catholic debut, Ahern led the Cougars to a magical season last year, finishing the regular season 9-0. “We won some games we probably shouldn’t
have won,” Ahern said. “The kids never quit. It was a special year. We would have liked to have done better in the playoffs.” In both seasons under Ahern, Lansing Catholic lost in the first round of the playoffs. In 2009, the Cougars fell to Marshall. Last year, that disappointment came against Wiliamston, a team they’d upset in conference play. “We could have played Marshall 20 times and couldn’t have beaten them,” Ahern said. “Last year, we weren’t in that game mentally. They played well and thumped us good.” There are reasons why the Cougars haven’t had success in the post-season. And there is reason to hope that that will change in the future. Lansing Catholic has had to play up a division or two due to the MHSAA Cooperative Program they’ve had with Lansing Christian since March 2006. Though Ahern’s team only had a couple players from Lansing Christian, they were required to add its enrollment of 192 to Lansing Catholic’s 477 students when playoff divisions were assigned. Ahern didn’t think that was fair and was successful this off-season in his quest to not have the co-op renewed. Without that arrangement, Lansing Catholic would have been a low Division 5 or high Division 6 team in the playoffs, instead of being in Division 4 against Marshall (enrollment 735) and
Fate & Faith Jim Ahern may be an offensive genius, constantly designing plans for his third year of coaching at Lansing Catholic. But his mind is never far from his late wife and daughter. His eyes inadvertently glanced skyward, as if he could see them up there, reunited. “It has been two years, eight months, 11 days,” Ahern said, his voice catching a bit. After decades of coaching high school football with his wife, Gerri, at his side, the length of time that Jim has had to coach alone is constantly on his mind. “I don’t know if I’m over it yet,” Ahern said. “She was really special. It’s a thankless job. She was really, really supportive. It’s really a lifestyle – coaching – and she enjoyed that. She missed one of my first games, when my son was born, and she missed one when she got sick.” Other than those two games, Gerri was always by his side or in the bleachers, cheering her husband’s team on to victory. After surviving a bout with cancer, Gerri had a clean bill of health in June 2008. The Aherns were looking forward to celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary and getting back to coaching in their new home state of Florida. Six weeks later, the cancer was back. Soon, the prognosis became grave. Jim and Gerri moved back to Michigan to fight the disease with experimental drugs that often kill the cancer but attack other organs. That is what Jim thinks happened to his wife in November 2008. Gerri, a devout Catholic, was preceded in death by their daughter, Kristyn, who died of a rare heart disease when she was 19. “Who knows why,” Jim asked out loud. “As hard as it was losing my daughter, I think it was harder when I lost my wife. I think the reason is when Kristyn died, I had Gerri to lean on…” His voice trailed off as the memories flooded in. A graduate of Western Michigan University, Ahern and his wife moved to Ithaca in 1972 from Gobles High School to take over a program that hadn’t been winning. Ahern fit in with a blue-collar community and jumped in quickly, installing the same system all the way down to the fifth grade. He literally wrote a book about his offensive approach, Coaching the Single Wing Offense. Ahern set the foundation for his former staff to win Ithaca’s first state title in 2010. He was inducted into the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1996 and was named Michigan’s Coach of the year in 2002, before moving to Florida with his wife in 2004. After coaching at a few different Florida high schools, the Aherns got news that Gerri was sick. Jim had planned to stop coaching and to spend time taking care of his wife. Five months later, he found himself alone, praying to God for guidance. But when he noticed the opening for a football coach at Lansing Catholic, he was intrigued. Cougars athletic director Rich Kimball didn’t need much convincing. “We got a guy who has been there, done that,” he said. “He knows how to build a program. And he knows how to maintain a program once he has built it. He has had tremendous success. All the people we talked to about him said, ‘This guy is just a quality individual.’” “I love him,” runner/receiver Matt Macksood said. “He’s one of the best things that has ever happened to this school. He’s really smart and the best coach we’ve ever had.” “He pushes us,” quarterback Cooper Rush added. “He’s a genius offensively and defensively. He has turned this whole program around.” Part of that has been having good players. Part of it has been the support he has received. And part of it has been him. “Jim Ahern is one of the finest football coaches I’ve ever met,” Kimball said. “He has a football mind. He’s five steps ahead in his thinking. I have to believe the game slows down for him.” But has life slowed down for him? Has Lansing Catholic been as therapeutic for a coach as he has been for the program? “It’s good to be back in a religious setting. It helps me where I’m at right now. Mass every day and Communion really helps. And I think I need that,” Ahern said, pausing and glancing to the heavens again. “Right now, I know I need that.”
BY DAVID HARNS
Williamston (624). If the Cougars make the playoffs this year, they will be paired with a team much closer in size. All that playoff talk is premature, Ahern says. The first three teams on the schedule – Madison Heights Madison, Flint Powers and Assumption College (Canada) – are formidable foes. “We’ve got to get in the playoffs first,” he said. “Our schedule this year is tough. We had three teams drop us, and the teams we picked up are really good. We could be 0-2 going into Labor Day weekend if we aren’t ready to play.” Still, Ahern has been around long enough to know he can’t fool everyone. His team’s talent level is as high as its expectations. “We lost some really key people, but we have excellent skill players coming back on offense,” he said. “A lot of our success is going to depend on how our line does. If we stay injury free, we’re going to be a really good football team. We don’t have a lot of depth, but I don’t know if I’ve ever had a team that has as many skill kids on it in all the years I’ve coached. We have a lot of weapons offensively.” Ahern instituted the spread single-wing offense when he arrived in Lansing – a perfect fit for Lansing Catholic’s personnel, with only a handful of running plays and a lot of focus on the passing game. “We just aren’t very big,” Ahern said. “If we were trying to run a power offense, we’d get killed.”
Ahern’s philosophy is to get his skilled players the ball in open space and give them the chance to use their athletic ability to make things happen. Everything starts with Rush, who’ll be in his third year as the starter. Ahern thinks he will be like a coach on the field. “As a sophomore, he wouldn’t say, ‘Boo,’” Ahern said. “Last year he got a little more vocal. He reminds me a great deal of Josh Brehm from when I coached at Ithaca.” Brehm won the Gagliardi Trophy – the NCAA Division III version of the Heisman Trophy – in his last year at Alma College in 2006 and has said he will be around Lansing this year to help Rush in any way that he can. Having Macksood back can’t hurt. Ahern thinks Rush’s favorite target is one of the top receivers in the state. Certainly, the tandem is scary. “Cooper and I are really good friends,” Macksood said of a fellow redhead. “He’s a great quarterback, really smart. We’re always on the same page. Whether it’s the routes I’m supposed to run or even off the field, we get along. We never get in any arguments. He’s really poised. He’s not a guy who’s all jumpy. He calms the whole team down. He’s never really rattled.” You could say the same about the receiving end of that combo. The bigger the game, the better Macksood plays. “We have a good chemistry,” Rush said of
a player who led the state in receptions last season. “Matt runs really great routes. When the ball is in the air, he gets faster and goes and gets it. That’s what really separates him. He’s really nice to throw to.” He’s a pretty nice player to coach, too. “Matt is extremely competitive and very athletic,” Ahern said. “He makes you look like a great coach sometimes. Those two kids will be really key for us offensively, but (our success) will depend a lot on the line.” The offensive line will be anchored by its only returning senior, Nick Gerdes, and will be asked to slow the defense just enough to allow Rush, Macksood and other threats to find the open field. Last year, they produced an average of 44 points per game. “That’s a lot of points,” Ahern said. “Our defense has to be a lot better than it was last year.” The Cougars will switch to the defensive scheme Ahern used at Ithaca and should be stronger and more experienced. Six or seven starters are back from last year’s defense, led by linebacker Dan Liesman, the biggest player on this year’s team at 6-1, 240. Ahern said this can be another successful season if everything comes together just right. He shares any credit with his assistant coaches and the many volunteers who have helped him stabilize the program with continuity all the way to the fifth grade. “More experience helps,” Rush said. “Our big playmakers are back. We have a lot of talent coming up from the JV. The juniors are really talented. They were 9-0 last year, too.” “We’re definitely capable of winning a state championship,” Macksood added. “That’s the ultimate goal.” State titles don’t happen by accident. And in Greater Lansing, they don’t happen often. But Lansing Catholic has a chance to do what Grand Ledge did in 2000. “Once you get into the playoffs, it takes some luck,” Kimball said. “It takes somebody getting upset. It takes the wind blowing in the right direction. Would I expect us to go deep into the playoffs? Absolutely.” Success isn’t as mysterious as some make it out to be. It takes talent, leadership, chemistry, luck, support and a lot of sweat equity. “We have people who are willing to put in the time,” Ahern said modestly. That work is paying off for a proven winner, his staff and his newest football powerhouse. H
Red-Headed And Ready Lansing Catholic standouts Matt Macksood (left) and Cooper Rush have paid the price for success.
12 SEPTEMBER 2011
Photography ALAN HOLBEN
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Featuring former U of M Football Coach
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Sticking To It MSU Field Hockey Family Driven To Excel
To know a female athlete is to know a competitive young woman who welcomes a challenge with determination and fervor. To know a field hockey player is to know an athlete who has sacrificed much of her life to compete in a sport few people recognize. To know a Michigan State field hockey player is to know someone who overcomes adversity and understands the meaning of family. It’s also to know a champion. “Being on the team taught me how far I could push myself physically and mentally, and I learned a lot about myself during the process,”
In The Swing MSU junior Kristen Henn steps into her shot and delivers a blast on goal.
14 SEPTEMBER 2011
said Meghan Magee, an MSU field hockey alum from the Class of 2010 and a Big Ten titlist. “It was made easier by always being surrounded by people with similar goals and a fun mentality.” That’s more than most residents of Greater Lansing know about the Spartans or the sport in general. Many people wouldn’t know that field hockey is predominantly a men’s sport in European countries like Holland or that Gatorade commercials in Australia feature female field hockey players as spokespeople. They also may not notice the common scars above an eyebrow caused by a 5.5-ounce ball or composite stick – or even the number of times shin guard tan has ruined an outfit. And unless you’ve ever experienced a 12-hour bus ride with MSU’s team, you wouldn’t know that Jimmy John’s subs and techno dance parties are enough to fuel this eclectic group of girls for any game. “Being a part of the Michigan State field hockey program is like being a part of another family,” said Julie Mackay, Class of 2011. “Since Day One of my freshman year, I knew I was part of something special. The experience I had was something I’ll never forget. It led me to lifetime friendships and memories few get to enjoy.” Field hockey requires cohesion and a
combination of speed, finesse, and aggression. The most basic level involves technical knowledge of how to dribble a ball without using the backside of the stick, as well as the proper use of core and leg strength to transfer power into a hit, pass or aerial lift. It takes years of progress, hours of frustration and the dedication of perfecting a shot on goal by hitting hundreds of balls after practice is over and repeating the phrase “just one more.” To improve, a player must rely on more than herself. She must rely on her coaches and all 10 of her teammates on the field. She must also rely on teammates standing on the sidelines, cheering for her while wishing desperately to be playing next to her. It’s a game of highs and lows. Sometimes you feel untouchable, confident and victorious. Other times you feel completely defeated. Field hockey players endure a lot for the little recognition they receive. Perhaps this is a testament to the saying, “If it were easy, everyone could do it.” The Spartan field hockey team is quite familiar with those ups and downs. Players have learned over the course of five years that the game isn’t always about scoring in the opponent’s goal cage or defending their side of the field. Instead, it’s about team goals in a sport for tough athletes, not just girls in skirts. In 2005, head coach Michele Madison left MSU to lead the Virginia Cavaliers. Her assistant at the time, Rolf Van de Kerkhof, stepped up as head coach of the Spartans. Standing 6-foot-7, that was a big step. But he recruited players from all over, including his home country of Holland. Helen Knull, a Scottish player who competed for Kent State, and Molly Maloney, a former
Photography MSu athletic communications
BY CAMILLE DAGORN
SEPTEMBER 2011 15
sticking to it Michigan Wolverine, aided Van de Kerkhof in rebuilding the program. And their efforts finally paid off in 2009. MSU won its first outright Big Ten regular-season title and repeated in the conference tournament. The Spartans went on to compete in the NCAA Tournament and, as fate would have it, faced none other than their former head coach and UVa in the second round of NCAA Elite Eight teams. A devastating double-overtime loss left them defeated physically, mentally and emotionally. Having lost three senior All-Americans, MSU struggled to get its stride back in 2010, inching its way past teams it had trampled the year before. The Spartans relinquished their Big Ten title but remained optimistic about entering the NCAA Tournament. As a bubble team, MSU watched the live streaming of the NCAA Tournament selection show. A shocking announcement came as the final bracket was announced for the first round. The Spartans would once again be facing their former head coach, Michele Madison, and her Cavaliers. Van de Kerkhof’s players were clearly underdogs. But the story didn’t end with redemption, as MSU fell to UVa in a familiar double-overtime loss. That marked the end of its season and a significant era for Van de Kerkhof, who announced weeks later that he would be leaving for the University of Delaware. With yet another loss to the field hockey program, the Spartans remained positive with a lot to look forward to, as Knull was promoted from assistant coach to be Van de Kerkhof’s successor. According to rising junior Jessica Lindner, the change was a positive one. “I was really excited for Helen because she already knew the program and the team,” Lindner said. “The rules are the same no matter who you are. Everyone is treated equally, which is extremely refreshing. She lays her expectations on the table. As a team we meet them because we respect her and want to make her proud. She sees our true potential and will do everything she can to help us reach it.” Standing 21 girls strong with nine new freshmen and a new outlook, the only thing that remains the same is a never-ending pride in the program. That’s usually exemplified by singing the fight song to a small-but-loyal group of fans after every game – win or lose, smiles or tears. Perhaps the most notable aspect of this team is the unique blend of personalities. From New Jersey to California, Canada to Scotland, there’s more than enough diversity and talent on a fairly young team.
Eye On The Ball Redshirt-sophomore goalie Molly Cassidy moves laterally to make the save.
“Having nine freshman will be a bit different team dynamic, but a good one as well,” said Shawn Hindy, MSU’s new assistant coach and the former head coach of Pennsylvania’s 2009 AA high schools champions. “How quickly we can develop and grow as an overall team will determine our success. Plus, we have quite a few different personalities, which keeps things interesting.” Twelve players will return to the artificial turf, including Adelle Lever, a tough defender at just 5-0; Kristin “Gigs” Henn, who has a laser shot, and Molly Cassidy, an already-decorated sophomore goalie. At the core of this team are players like Lizzie Helfrich, Malorie McDonagh, Chelsy Coil and Christie Jones, who have selflessly supported their teammates. Their improvement speaks volumes for their dedication to not only play but to help make the team better. Jones and Coil began this journey together as freshmen and are now redshirt juniors. For the past three years, they have paid their dues, offering their voices, positive attitudes and fresh legs whenever they were needed. “I think this season will be refreshing with a
sticking to it new coach,” Jones said. “As a returning player, I’ll need to step up and play a larger role than before.” Coil added, “This season will be different for me because my role has changed on and off the field. As one of the older girls, I now
“Every year I expect hard work, sacrificing for the team and having fun,” Hindy said. “If we can do that, wins will take care of themselves.” The Spartans define the word “teamwork” with their preseason fitness test. If the
“ Ever y year I expect hard work, sacrificing for the team and having fun…if we can do that, wins will take care of themselves.” SHAWN HINDY
have the opportunity to show the new girls the ropes. And for the new position change up, going from defense to forward, I only can be excited because I’m learning new things and having a blast.” The MSU field hockey team values the importance of family. If a game is played near one of the teammate’s hometowns, the entire team and their families have dinner at that teammate’s house. Each parent, sibling, friend and boyfriend is welcomed as a family member. Reinforcing this importance of family is the concept that no goal is accomplished individually.
entire team doesn’t pass, they must all take it every week until each member does. The motivation isn’t for an athlete to pass the test but to help a struggling teammate pass hers by cheering her on, running alongside or physically pushing her through the test. That’s teamwork. The team is well versed in fighting, laughing and crying, having experienced as many running punishments as hysterical moments. At the end of the day, when these girls hang their sticks in their lockers, shower off the layers of sweat and sometimes blood, ice their throbbing muscles and devour every ounce of dinner, they can say they are part of a team, but more importantly, part of a family. “Being part of a strong team that plays for and represents MSU is an amazing feeling,” sophomore Katherine Jamieson said. “It’s a privilege to be a team with such a diverse and fun group.” Apparently, that privilege carries over to the coaches, as Hindy explained when asked what he liked best about his new role. “The coaching staff and girls on the team are great,” Hindy said. “We have a very fun environment to succeed. MSU does an excellent job of giving their athletes and teams the best opportunity to win. I’m excited to get started.” Officially, that starts with a home game against Michigan on Saturday, Aug. 22. In truth, it hasn’t stopped. Family never does. H
Knull In The Void Former assistant Helen Knull is the team’s new head coach.
From Football To Boxing, Seth Mitchell Has Game BY BRITTANY McCORMICK
Success seldom comes easily, especially to professional athletes. Those who succeed at the highest level usually spend many years training in their sport. A boxer with a record of 22-0-1 and 16 knockouts would normally spend the majority of his life trying to reach that level. But that’s not the path that rising heavyweight and former middle linebacker Seth “Mayhem” Mitchell has taken. Delivering A Blow MSU linebacker Seth Mitchell has always packed a wallop.
He has progressed to HBO bouts, including an Aug. 27 bout with “Merciless” Mike Mollo, and has shown he can deliver as mean a blow in the ring as he did in Spartan Stadium. “I never had really any interest in boxing growing up,” Mitchell said before the Mollo bout. “I used to be a casual fan and would only watch the major fights. I never thought I would be a professional boxer.” Before he began that steady climb, Mitchell was a force for MSU’s football team. A highly recruited player in high school, Mitchell took a medical redshirt his freshman year after a left knee injury. He was sidelined again during his second season in 2002 with knee inflammation but still saw action in six games and recorded 29 tackles. “I gave it my all,” Mitchell said. “I wanted 20 SEPTEMBER 2011
to play so bad. I knew what I could do when I was healthy, and my whole battle there was to just get on the field and play the game that I loved. I loved to compete. I loved the physical contact. My biggest obstacle was to stay on the field and not get discouraged.” Mitchell battled what would be his toughest opponent – his knee – to return to the field for his sophomore season. And what a season he had. The middle linebacker notched 103 tackles, 10.6 per game, and had two stops for losses against Ohio State. But as a preseason All-Big Ten selection in 2004, he was sidelined again with knee problems and was forced to hang up his helmet. “It was devastating to him,” said Michigan State strength and conditioning coach Ken
Mannie. “You could see him get deflated when football was no longer a part of his future. But he picked up and went into something less stressful on his knee that didn’t require all the physicality of an offensive lineman chopblocking him and putting that knee under duress. Really, it’s a perfect venue for him.” Mitchell’s decision to pursue a career in boxing came from the unlikely influence of an enemy, former Notre Dame safety and current Baltimore Raven, Tom Zbikowski. “I got my start by watching Tom after I finished playing football and was circulating my resume,” Mitchell said. “He just sparked my interest because I played against him when he was a safety for Notre Dame. I was like ‘Wow, if he can do it, I think I have the tools to succeed.’
The rest is history. I just decided to box after I saw him fight.” Mitchell had to start from scratch, learning the ins and outs of an unfamiliar sport. While football and boxing require aggression and strength, they’re drastically different. If Mitchell were to throw one of his punches as a linebacker, he’d be called for a 15-yard penalty. In the ring, that punch can bring victory. “Training for boxing is totally different,” said Mitchell’s boxing trainer, Andre Hunter. “In football, if you miss a play, you have teammates to help you out. In boxing, if you get hit, you have to stand there against the ropes for three minutes.” Mitchell’s training regimen had to change dramatically when he transitioned from the field to the ring. With help from Hunter,
Mitchell was able to adapt quickly to the different types of workouts. Instead of lifting weights to build muscle, he had to cut back on lifting and let his muscles extend. “The biggest transition for me is that I played middle linebacker,” Mitchell said. “I had to be bulky and muscular, and I was always really tense when I had to take on fullbacks and guards. In boxing, you can’t be tense. I had to learn how to relax.” After learning the basics, Mitchell was quick to make a name for himself, competing in Golden Gloves as an amateur and going 9-1 with nine knockouts. After only his second pro fight, Mitchell signed with Golden Boy, a top-notch program. “I think he’s been so successful because of
his work ethic,” Hunter said. “He’s willing to work. He’s always shooting for high goals. And he’s hungry. Put all that together, and you’ll have an athlete who’s the best he can be.” Though he’s roughly 600 miles from East Lansing, Mitchell still carries his Spartan pride with him wherever he goes. The Brandywine, Md., native enters the ring in a Spartan robe and wears shorts with a familiar helmet logo and his college football number, 48. “My memories of my time at Michigan State are things that I relish,” Mitchell said. “It was just great to go to MSU and spend most of my time there. When I see somebody with a Spartan bumper sticker or MSU apparel, I just want to stop them and say ‘Go Green! Go White!’ It means a lot.” SEPTEMBER 2011
Though Mitchell hasn’t had much time to get back to campus because of hectic training and fighting schedules, he keeps in contact with many of the coaches he worked with when he played for the Green and White. “He does a great job of staying in communication with us,” Mannie said. “We are obviously very proud of his accomplishments. We follow him every fight. I think Spartan Nation should be very proud of what he has accomplished.” Not only has Mid-MIchigan provided many of his best memories, it’s also the place where he met his wife, Danielle Mitchell. “Michigan State, for us, takes us back to the best time of our life, basically,” Danielle said. “As far as his connection, he has a lot of school spirit. He loves the Spartans. I love the Spartans. I think it’s fantastic every time I get to talk about MSU. I just rave about it, and he does the same. We both love it.” Mitchell and his wife currently reside in Waldorf, Md., with their four-year-old daughter, Aurielle, and 5-month-old son, Seth. It’s a tough task for Mitchell to balance his strenuous training schedule and family life. But like fighting, it’s something that comes naturally to him. “Balancing my boxing and family life is just what I do,” Mitchell said. “When you have a family, there is nothing greater. In my eyes, that’s why I get up and put my road miles in. That’s why I work so hard to support them, because they come first. It’s not about me. It’s all about my family.” “People are surprised and are like, ‘How can he be such a nice person and such a good dad and then be such a vicious fighter in the ring?’” Danielle said. “But it’s two totally different things. He can definitely be a nice guy outside the ring and a warm and compassionate person with his children
and family and still know how to handle his business when he’s inside the ring.” Mitchell has battled injuries and fierce opponents on the field and in the ring. But in March, he witnessed a different type of battle. With Oscar de la Hoya and two other fighters, Mitchell visited troops in Kuwait and Iraq. The four boxers spent a week interacting with soldiers and conducting clinics. “My trip there was definitely amazing,” Mitchell said. “The soldiers were great. We visited some camps that hadn’t been visited in months. Just to see the genuine appreciation on the soldiers’ faces was really touching. Though I was only there for a week, it felt like I knew the soldiers for a lifetime.” Mitchell still keeps in contact with some of the soldiers he met on the tour through social media. “It was an incredible experience for Seth to go overseas and teach the troops how to box,” Mitchell’s manager, Sharif Salim, said. “It shows that he is unselfish and compassionate – all the ingredients that make an outstanding person, not to mention a future champion. That was just a courageous trip for him. And it shows he is a person of great integrity and high values.” His integrity and value system help Mitchell succeed in and out of the ring. Many believe he’s on track to become a heavyweight champion. While his next fight is yet to be determined, Mitchell, along with his wife, support team and friends back at MSU, hope that the undefeated boxer can fight in East Lansing. It’s something he has dreamed about since he left campus. “If I could fight back at Michigan State, awesome wouldn’t even be able to describe it,” Mitchell said. “I can’t even explain it. I would have to make up a word. I hope it happens. It would mean so much.” To Mitchell, yes. To his opponent, not so much. H
Brothers In Mayhem Mitchell’s trip to Kuwait and Iraq left a lasting impression.
Photography MSU ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS & TOM HOGAN/HOGANPHOTOS/steve manuel/uso photo
MSU FIGHT SONG
LEAVING HIS MARK Ditsworth Has Done It All As Ump, Ref, Coach BY FRED HEUMANN
24 SEPTEMBER 2011
Only The Best Ditsworth has umpired the biggest games in college baseball, including the 2007 World Series in Rosenblatt Stadium.
Photography DANE ROBISON
Any baseball umpire worth his mask will tell you it’s a great game when the umps aren’t noticed. They are seen and heard, but their presence is an afterthought – if they are doing their job properly.
The perception of Ditsworth’s presence is evident in any college baseball dugout. “Mark is the epitome of what a high-level collegiate umpire should be,” said Michigan State baseball coach Jake Boss Jr. “He works extremely Mark Ditsworth has been doing his job properly for more than three hard at his craft and has made himself one of the nation’s elite. His focus is on getting the call decades, and it’s high time he gets noticed. correct. And he will take the proper precautions to make sure he accomplishes just that. Mark is League Baseball or even Major League umpires. great to work with and has the best interest of Ditsworth started umpiring in the Lansing Parks Some of the guys can’t handle it. They think the game of baseball in mind while he works.” & Recreation program when he was a junior at Pretty strong praise for a guy who dreamed they are bigger than the game. Nobody is Lansing Eastern High in the late 1960’s. of playing baseball at the big-league level. bigger than this game.” “I wasn’t looking down the road that far (to Ditsworth was at Tulsa on a football scholarship While coaches, players and tunnel-vision an umpiring career),” Ditsworth said with a in the early 1970s when the Boston Red Sox parents see the game through one set of eyes, chuckle. “I was just trying to put gas in my car an umpire sees the same game through a called and wanted to sign him. He asked if they and help my parents.” were willing to pay for the rest of his education. different set. But getting calls right are not More than 40 years later, Ditsworth has gas in his car and plenty of gas left in his umpiring tank. what make Ditsworth one of the best and most The answer from the Red Sox was “no.” So “no” was the answer Ditsworth gave them. respected umpires in the country. He has been working high school and college One dream gone, another dream launched. It’s about positioning, makeup and presence. games for 31 years. And when the heat of This is what separates the former head football Soon after his time at Tulsa was complete, summer turns to winter’s chill, he officiates and baseball coach at Lansing Eastern from Ditsworth returned to the only place he has basketball at the NCAA Division 2 and 3 levels, ever called home – Lansing. That’s when he many of the others. as well as some high school games. began taking umpiring seriously. “You have to be able to listen to other But his identity is as a baseball umpire. Not just He worked games in the Mid-American a good umpire – a terrific one. One of the best. people and accept the criticism,” Ditsworth Conference, the Big Ten, the Big East, the said. “Accepting criticism is huge if you want Ditsworth has been rated among the top eight Atlantic 10 and probably would have umped a to advance. You can’t be a know-it-all. You’ve nationally for several years and has umpired in two local pee wee tournament if he had been asked. got to be a sponge and take it all in.” College World Series and two Baseball World Cups. He would grab his mask, his shin guards, his Ditsworth has been advancing his umpiring “I do it because of my love of baseball,” a beaming brush and his count clicker and be there. since he purchased his first chest protector. Ditsworth said. “I like to be competitive…not Ditsworth is aware of how egos have infiltrated College World Series assignments in 2007 and so much with the players and coaches but with 2010 are among his career highlights, as is the his industry, particularly at the Major League level. myself, as strange as that sounds – to be in the 2004 Women’s World Cup in Edmonton and the That’s why he was especially impressed with the right position at the right time. I try to be a behavior of umpire Jim Joyce last summer in the 2007 Men’s World Cup Tournament in Taiwan. perfectionist. That’s my challenge.” “There is so much ego in all of umpiring, and infamous “stolen no-hitter” from then Detroit Ditsworth is not perfect but usually finds Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga. Joyce blew a I’d say there are a high percentage of guys who himself in the perfect position at all the right key call at first base that cost Galarraga his moment don’t want to listen,” Ditsworth said. “Some times. He never went to umpiring school. He of fame, one he will likely never recapture. (umpires) cannot handle the criticism. Your was self-taught. And he’s damn proud of it. “I felt so sick for that man (Joyce),” Ditsworth presence says everything about umpiring. “Yes, I am,” Ditsworth said. “Fifty-two said. “It’s a sick feeling to know you’ve missed Presence is perception.” percent of umpires in college are former Minor SEPTEMBER 2011
leaving his mark
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a call. But in the way he handled it, he gained more respect from me and should have gained respect from anybody who loves baseball.” Ditsworth has been there. He’s a proud man and a proud umpire, but not too proud to think he’s perfect or has never missed a call. He missed a big one in the 2000 NCAA Regional at Rice University, a call that went in favor of Rice and against Washington. “I was behind the plate and I didn’t rotate for a call at third base,” Ditsworth said. “I was a long way away, and I made the call and clearly missed it. The place just erupted. It was an ugly experience. It does shake you. But you have to look at it like, how are you going to come back and react? I’ve seen a lot of guys who never come back. I’ve missed calls on the field, and I’ve missed calls in life.” The fact is, Ditsworth is an outstanding umpire, and he knows it. He was at the center of attention in a heated Big Ten baseball game in May when he called a Purdue runner out at the plate against Michigan State for the final out. And that game cost the Boilermakers dearly in the standings. “I got the call right,” Ditsworth said two months later. “I got calls from all over the country supporting me because word travels fast in the umpiring network.” Ditsworth has no idea how many baseball games he has umpired in his life, but he thirsts to do many more and to experience more magic moments. When he’s not on the field arbitrating, he’s advising other umpires. He has served as the umpire-in-chief at the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s State Baseball Finals since 1993 and travels all over the country in an advisory capacity for umps at all levels. But for all the glorious moments and significant games Ditsworth has been fortunate enough to be a part of, it’s his attitude that keeps him among the top umpires in the country. In the Ditsworth unwritten creed, every game matters. “No baseball game is more important than another one,” Ditsworth said with immense pride. “If I’m doing a U10 game (10-year-olds), I am trying to get the next pitch perfect. Every game is important to somebody.” Ditsworth, soon to be 59, hopes to work until he’s at least 65 if his health is good. Right now, his health is terrific, and he sees to that by working out 7 days a week. He has taken this summer off to have two knee replacement surgeries that will extend his umpiring longevity. “I’d like to work another College World Series,” he said. “I closed Rosenblatt Stadium (having worked the final game there in the 2010 CWS), and I’d like to have the
opportunity to work in the new stadium for one more. I’m not one of these guys who has to do seven or eight of them, but I’d like to go to Omaha for one more.” Ditsworth has been a fixture in our community since he played baseball and football at Lansing Eastern. His only absence was to accept a football scholarship at Tulsa,
Reliving A Moment Ditsworth shares an NCAA Tournament memory with former UCLA shortstop Niko Gallego, now with the South Bend Silver Hawks. where he played on the same team as former NFL stars Drew Pearson and Steve Largent. He remains friends with them to this day. He has been a teacher in the Lansing School District since graduating from college and has served Eastern High as a head coach in two sports. But his true identity around here is behind the mask or on the bases. Umpiring is NOT a job for everyone. “I have never lost my love of baseball,” Ditsworth said. “I’m not tired of it. The hard part is the travel, but baseball has allowed me to see the world.” When he’s not seeing the world or teaching physical education in elementary schools, he helps out as an assistant football coach at Grand Ledge High in the fall. It’s hard to tell from his energy level whether he is 58 or 22. “I remember one year I worked more than 130 games from February to September,” Ditsworth says with pride. “That includes games in the Lansing Summer Men’s League. Baseball has been very, very good to me.” You get back what you give. He’s Mark Ditsworth, the umpire. It’s time he gets noticed. H
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Dungyâ€™s Path To Greatness Shaped By Days In East Lansing BY CHIP MUNDY
Tony Dungy had always dreamed of leading his team to victory in Spartan Stadium. But he hoped heâ€™d be wearing green-and-white, not maroon-and-gold. Instead, just 10 days after his 21st birthday in 1976, the former Jackson Parkside star quarterbacked Minnesota to a 14-10 football win over Michigan State in an East Lansing homecoming.
28 SEPTEMBER 2011
SEPTEMBER 2011 29
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his heroes were here
“This is the biggest thrill I have ever experienced,” Dungy told the Jackson Citizen Patriot. “I’ve dreamed of playing in Spartan Stadium ever since I was a little kid. Coming here and winning just has to be the greatest. DID YOU KNOW THAT: “All my heroes were Spartans.” 75% of people 65 and older will Thirty-five years later, Dungy has been a eventually need long term care? hero to millions for his work as an NFL head The national average yearly cost of coach, his humanity, an unshakable faith and nursing home care is $83,585 per person? an ability to inspire. About 75% of all single people and 50% of After four seasons with the Golden Gophers, all couples spend their entire savings within Dungy played for the Pittsburgh Steelers for one year of entering a nursing home? two years and earned a championship ring in Super Bowl XIII in 1979. I CAN SHOW YOU HOW: He served as an assistant coach with the To generate TAX-FREE long term care benefits. Steelers, then took over the leadership of the To cover both spouses using one contract. Tampa Bay Buccaneers and built them into a Use an IRA to obtain TAX-FREE long term care contending team. benefits and TAX-FREE death benefit. In 2007, he led the Indianapolis Colts past This is the BEST STRATEGY in the industry. the Chicago Bears and made pro football history by becoming the first African-American head W. Voegler, coach to win a Super Bowl. R ETIREMENT Jack LUTCF Today, Dungy is a studio analyst for NBC’s P ROTECTION P 517.339.4777 Sunday Night in America, which precedes the C 517.230.3595 network’s weekly primetime offering. S ERVICES E firstname.lastname@example.org And he continues to be a source of strength for others. One of the latest is former MSU wide receiver and Super Bowl hero Plaxico Burress, who just signed with the New York Jets after two years in prison on a gun charge. “I did go visit Plaxico at the end of his prison term and have visited with him one other time in person,” Dungy said on Aug. 1. “I have not spoken to him since he signed with the Jets, but I think it will be good for him.” The same could be said about any association with arguably the NFL’s most positive influence, a mentor to many and a real man to all. None of those achievements seemed possible in the mid-1960s, when he lived with his father and mother, one brother and two sisters in a ® ® married housing unit in East Lansing, and the Super Bowl was just taking shape. ® All that mattered to him then was becoming a Spartan. “If you had asked me in the sixth grade, I would have said I wanted to play at Michigan State,” said Dungy, who was born in Jackson but lived in East Lansing for three years. He attended Red Cedar Elementary from the fourth through sixth grades, while his father, Wilbur, took classes and pursued his Ph.D. Dungy’s mother, Cleo Mae, was also an MSU graduate. The family lived in apartment 1208-E at University Village – close to Jenison Field House and Spartan Stadium. And the campus provided Dungy with a great place to hone his athletic talents. 248 W. Grand River • East Lansing, 248 W. Grand River • East MI Lansing, “It MIwas a different time back then, and I can remember playing a lot of basketball at
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Jenison,” Dungy said. “They would just let you go in and play at that time.” But it was the MSU football team that really captured his attention. The Spartans of the mid 1960s were a national power with the likes of George Webster, Bubba Smith, Clint Jones, Gene Washington and Jimmy Raye, breaking down every racial barrier. “George Webster was probably my favorite just because of the way he played defense,” Dungy said. “When I was in the fifth grade, we went to the spring game, and at halftime we went right onto the field and had a pickup game. “It was a fun time – a great time – and I still have a lot of friends from those days.” One of those friends is Dr. Christopher Harner, a professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, specializing in knee, ligament and cartilage injuries. “For two years, it seemed like we were inseparable,” Harner said. “I was one year ahead of him, and he would go with me to Little League but wasn’t old enough to play. He’d hang around and fill in for guys who wouldn’t show up. He was the best hitter there, even though he was the youngest guy.” Harner’s father, Jim, was Dungy’s fifthgrade teacher at Red Cedar. That provided a different perspective. “Tony was a great student, and my dad spoke very highly of him,” Harner said. “He would bring home Tony’s reports, show them
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Having A Ball A young Tony Dungy works on his football skills in front of University Village in East Lansing.
to me and say, ‘This is how you write a report.’ I thought, ‘What am I, chopped liver?’ I was a pretty good student, too.” The boys spent lots of time together, playing at Jenison, getting in trouble once for taking basketballs and playing baseball whenever they could find a game. They even became young businessmen. “There was total diversity in those married housing units with people from all over the world,” Harner said. “It was truly a melting pot. One year, one of the guys in the unit gave up his job delivering the Lansing State Journal. It was a big route, so Tony and I took over and split the earnings.” After Dungy completed the sixth grade, his family moved back to Jackson when his dad became a professor at Jackson Community College. But Dungy didn’t abandon East Lansing and his friends. He returned often to play in competitive pickup games and for academic programs. It was there that Dungy temporarily lost his vision while attending a six-week summer math program at MSU. “We were in the chemistry lab, and I wasn’t wearing the protective glasses like I was supposed to,” Dungy said. “There was an explosion. I lost my sight. And it was a very scary experience. But the next day when I woke up, things were fine.” A huge athletic star in Jackson, Dungy was featured in “Faces in the Crowd” in Sports
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Illustrated as a ninth-grader. He played on a state championship Little League team, excelled in track and field and was an allstate quarterback in football. He also was the first player from a Jackson County high school to score at least 1,000 career points in basketball. Dungy said basketball was his favorite sport as a youngster. And Harner, an East Lansing Trojan, remembers playing against him. “I couldn’t guard him. He was that good,” Harner said. Dungy had other outstanding games against Lansing-area schools, including two classics against Sexton in the state tournament. His sophomore year, Sexton defeated Parkside 72-70 in a Class A regional semifinal. The following season, Sexton won a rematch 73-70 in a Class A regional final. “Tony was such a great athlete and was a very, very great competitor,” said Bob Riddle, the all-state center on those Sexton teams. “He had a quiet confidence about him and was so humble. A lot of kids at 18 see their names or pictures in the paper, and it goes to their head. Not Tony. “He was a leader on the court for that team, and nothing that he did after that has surprised me.” All through high school, Dungy believed he would return to play football – ideally, basketball, too – at MSU. One of the big reasons was Duffy Daugherty, a man Dungy could envision as his college coach. “I went up there on a visit when Duffy was still coaching and got a chance to visit with him,” Dungy said. “He was just an icon – one of those guys you dreamed of playing for. That was the attraction for me, seeing him in charge of that program and always wanting to play for him, much like Joe Paterno in today’s game.” When Daugherty retired after Dungy’s senior year at Parkside, it opened his recruitment up to other schools that wanted him to run their offense. Dungy had become the top quarterback recruit in the state, and one college coach made a quick connection: Minnesota’s Cal Stoll, who had been an MSU assistant under Daugherty for 10 years. Stoll left the Spartans in 1969 to become head coach at Wake Forest. Two years later, he took over in Minneapolis. But he kept his ties with the talent in the state of Michigan. “Coach Stoll knew he had a chance to jump in with a lot of the recruits in the state when Duffy retired,” Dungy said. “He recruited four No Words Can Explain An always-modest Dungy thanks God and almost everyone he has met in a post-Super Bowl interview with CBS’s Jim Nantz.
or five guys from Michigan that year.” In his best-selling book, Quiet Strength, Dungy made an interesting comment about his decision: “I saw joining his program at Minnesota as the closest thing to playing at Michigan State.” Dungy became a four-year starting quarterback for the Gophers and also spent one season on the basketball team. He enjoyed his best season as a junior when he passed for 1,515 yards and 15 touchdowns and twice he was named team MVP. When Dungy graduated, he was fourth in Big Ten history in total offense and first in Minnesota annals. But it took nearly his entire collegiate career to get back to East Lansing. The Gophers and Denny Stolz’s Spartans didn’t meet in Dungy’s first two seasons. When he was a junior in 1975, MSU defeated the Golden Gophers 38-15 in old Memorial Stadium. That set the stage for Dungy’s one-and-only appearance in his old stomping grounds. “It was great to play at Spartan Stadium. I thought back to playing in that pickup game at halftime of the spring game when I was in fifth grade,” said Dungy, who completed nine of 15 passes for 162 yards against Darryl Rogers’ first MSU team – a group that included quarterback Ed Smith, flanker Kirk Gibson and inside linebacker Dan Bass. At the time, Dungy believed that might be the biggest thrill he would experience in sports. Instead, it was more of a springboard to threeand-a-half more decades of success – in football, with his faith and as an amazing motivator. Daugherty would be proud. But he wouldn’t be shocked. Neither is anyone else who knew him at Red Cedar Elementary. H
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Back Where She Belongs After World Travels, Bowen Finds MSU A Perfect Fit
Lindsay Bowen traveled from the United States to Europe and back again for four years to play the game she loved. But she always found herself coming back home. It’s not that Bowen didn’t enjoy the foreign food, hectic driving and sense of adventure. Europe just wasn’t Lansing. “It’s such a different life over there,” Bowen said. “It’s so eye-opening, and it was an amazing experience. It makes you grow up fast and appreciate what you have here. I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything. I think I learned a lot and grew as a person and player.” Bowen was a four-year starter on Michigan
Always A Spartan After helping MSU reach the 2005 NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship, Lindsay Bowen is back on campus as a strength and conditioning intern loves.
34 SEPTEMBER 2011
State’s basketball team, but decided to become a Spartan long before she even entered high school in Dansville. “When I was 10 years old, I wrote on a piece of a paper, it was like a mini-contract,” Bowen explained, “It said, ‘I, Lindsay Bowen, will play basketball at Michigan State University.’ I signed it and gave it to my mom.” Eight years later, her dream became reality when she arrived on campus. Bowen had an immediate impact on her team and was named the Co-Big Ten Freshman of the Year alongside teammate Liz Shimek. She started every game of her career, became MSU’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made and free-throw percentage and helped her team to a NCAA runner-up finish as a junior. Her list of accomplishments as a Spartan goes on and on and would require more words than space allows. Bowen graduated from MSU in May of 2006 with a degree in kinesiology. But she wasn’t quite done with her basketball career. After being cut from the WNBA’s New York Liberty, she joined a Swedish team for two months, came home for Christmas and returned to Europe a few weeks later to play in Switzerland. After her first season overseas, Bowen tried out for the Liberty again, this time making the cut. She had a fun summer in the WNBA, traveling around the country and making new friendships. But it was a little different than what she was used to as a Spartan. “We didn’t have our own private jet, so we had to fly with other people,” Bowen said. “In college, we had the bus drivers drive up to the plane. We got off the bus, got on the plane and flew to our games. We got spoiled. But it was fun playing with the best athletes in the world.” After her first season with the Liberty, Bowen had a brief basketball career in Greece before returning home. She was cut from the Liberty the following summer, and decided to jump across the pond again. Bowen played in Ankara,
Turkey, for two years before coming back to Michigan and hanging up her jersey for good. Bowen found a job at Kinawa Middle School as a student supervisor when she returned home. She did everything from disciplining students to substitute teaching, but couldn’t stay away from the fitness world for long. She was hired this summer as a strength and conditioning intern at MSU. She works with all of the athletic teams except for football, basketball and hockey. Bowen said she puts the athletes through intense workouts in the Jenison Field House weight room and can’t wait to instruct the athletes full-time as they start returning to campus. “I’m super excited for the seasons to get under way,” Bowen said. “Soccer, field hockey and volleyball are all starting their seasons, so they’ll be coming in as a team to lift. It’ll get busy here.” Bowen wasn’t always a health nut. At MSU, Bowen said she would eat all types of unhealthy food and joked that she can’t believe she survived. “My mom was always like, ‘You have to make sure you drink a lot of water and eat this,’” Bowen said. “I was like, ‘Yeah, whatever, Mom.’ But she was actually right. I never really listened to her in college, but it kind of opened my eyes up after.” Mom is always right. And now Bowen has turned her fitness into her lifestyle. Along with her internship at MSU, Bowen is a Beachbody Coach, instructing the popular P90X exercise routine. “I really like helping people, and I’m passionate about health and fitness,” Bowen said. “So if I can change people’s eating and workout habits or just encourage them, give them advice and fitness and nutrition tips along the way, I just want to keep them motivated.” Bowen would eventually like to become a strength and conditioning coach or basketball coach at the collegiate level. She still follows MSU basketball closely and thinks they’ll be just as successful this season as they were in their last. “Oh my gosh, they’re going to tear it up,” Bowen said. Let’s hope she’s right. When it comes to basketball, she’s rarely wrong. H
Photography MSu athletic communications
BY ANDREA NELSON
BEING A SPARTAN MEANS
COACHING HOOPS WITHOUT HAVING TO
JUMP THROUGH THEM! April 30, 2007 marked an important day of transition for Suzy Merchant. That’s when she was hired as head coach for the MSU women’s basketball program — the day she began her career as a Spartan. It wasn’t easy, but four years later, she still loves her job. “Basketball has taken me all over the country, but my heart has always been here,” Merchant said. No matter where they’re destined to go, there’s sure to be a network of Spartans ready to cheer them on to victory and help with the transition. “At some point, our players will graduate and face the realities and challenges of life after college,” Merchant said. “Sure, they have the skills to dribble the ball down the court and score points, but will they succeed after graduation when it’s time to hoof the pavement, put their degree to work and find a job or place to live? There’s real power in our worldwide network of alumni. They’re doctors, nurses, lawyers, bankers, teachers, parents ... friends. On the court, they make a deafening noise and go stark raving mad to distract our opponent at the free-throw line. Off the court, they give us job leads, provide a helping hand, and recommend places to go and places to live. In the game of basketball, just as in the game of life, we all dream of winning. The MSU network of alumni and friends gives us the advantage we need to succeed. Shouldn’t you be part of it?” My name is Suzy Merchant, and the MSU Alumni Association is my personal network ... for life!”
Join the MSU Alumni Association — your personal network ... for life.
Spartans Do Dreams + Action = Victory For MSU BY Scott westerman
“A Spartan dreams of the future. But we do more than just dream. We actively participate in creating it.” One of the reasons I love this magazine is because nearly everyone featured in Greater Lansing sport epitomizes The Spartan Life. Even if it’s a story about a Lansing Eastern High athlete or a coach who never took a class on campus, the tenets of Spartan Spirit live within them. I am often asked what it is that makes Michigan State University unique. In a world with thousands of excellent institutions of higher education, what is it that sets Spartans apart? In the 37 years since I first set foot on her campus, I’ve had the opportunity to know many people who have benefited directly or indirectly from the MSU magic. I’ve learned that not everyone who graduates is a true Spartan. But anyone who truly wants to model the MSU spirit can become one. Spartans emerge from the most modest of backgrounds and from the most prominent families. We represent every color of the rainbow and every corner of the globe. Our backgrounds are all uniquely ours, but our common connection is a quest for knowledge that can help us improve the world. A Spartan reads the classics, creates art and studies the fundamental laws of the universe. We may make 3-point shots, swim faster and run further, but we know that a broad educational experience is a greater predictor of success than a one-dimensional focus. Spartans have known pain, disappointment and struggle. But we realize that only the hottest fire refines our resolve and defines our character. We make mistakes and suffer setbacks. But Spartans learn from experience, get up when we stumble and are ultimately victorious in any endeavor we undertake. Spartans achieve but remain humble. The greatest among us are defined not by our position, but by our kindness, caring and humility. Spartans are catalysts for change. We seek clean, sustainable energy, just as we sought 36 SEPTEMBER 2011
There To Serve Like Spartans all over the world, Scott Westerman is ready to help–in his case, as executive director of the MSU Alumni Association. and created the agriculture that is feeding the world. We participate in the political process and welcome the opportunity to be servant-leaders. Spartans are often passionate. We may sometimes protest in the intense tradition of our ancestors. In the end, we are collaborative. We strive for consensus and ultimately find solutions that benefit the greater good. A Spartan believes that where we came from can give us perspective, but it’s where we are going that makes all the difference. A Spartan welcomes individuality. We know that if we discuss and debate from a place of diversity we are more likely to make the right decisions when we act as one.
Spartans have open minds and open hearts. We seek to understand, are slow to judge and quick to assist. The philanthropic spirit of MSU’s World Grant Mission is deeply imbedded in whom we are. Spartans are among the first to offer a hand to those in need. And we devote our time, talent and treasure to create a margin of excellence that ensures, enriches and sustains our beloved Institution for future generations. A Spartan always helps other Spartans, anytime, anywhere. The MSU bond transcends status, achievement and experience. It is a halfmillion individual strands, woven tightly together into an unbreakable force that educates, inspires and enlightens everything it touches. A Spartan never stops learning. We believe that knowledge is more than just power. It’s the invisible fuel that nourishes our psyche, can solve any problem and leads to peace and understanding. A Spartan dreams of the future. But we do more than just dream about it. We actively participate in creating it. Spartans are all these things and more. Our dedication to the greater good is unmatched. Our determination is unbroken. Our compassion is legendary. And our common connection with Michigan State University sustains and strengthens us in everything we do. We are proud, hardworking, inclusive, practical, bold, genuine, empowering and principled. We are Spartans. H
SCOTT WESTERMAN is the Executive Director of the Michigan State University Alumni Association. His latest book, “A Spartan Life,” is a series of essays on how to incorporate Spartan values to become come a high-performance competitor on any playing field. To get your copy in paperback or digitally, visit ScottWesterman.com.
Photography MSU ALUMNI ASSOCIATION
What is a Spartan?
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Greater Lansing Sport Magazine September 2011 Issue. Featuring Dungy's path to greatness at the Spartan Stadium, women athletes fighting for...