Shock The World Chronicles: Michigan State vs. Wisconsin (Uncle Hamp Loves The Kids)

I decided it would be a cool opportunity to watch a Big Ten showdown between Wisconsin and Michigan State, but before confirming that I would go, I checked the forecast. Michigan’s weather is fickle, and I had to make sure a blizzard wouldn’t be on its way to East Lansing. After I looked at the weather app on my iPhone and saw that it would be sunny and warm, making the 70-mile trip to East Lansing was a no-brainer.

Knowing that the atmosphere would be one-of-a-kind, I decided to bring a former basketball player I coached, Devell Washington. Devell is playing varsity football as a freshman at Bay City Central High School in Bay City, Michigan. He wears No. 1, so that should tell you what type of player he is. (A bit about Devell: He stands at 6’3", weighs about 190 pounds, and most of all he’s a good student.)

Although I sport a “Block O” tattoo on my left arm,  I have nothing but love for Michigan State. I attend a lot of Michigan State home games to support one of my close friends, De’Angelo Smith, who under Mark Dantonio at the University of Cincinnati was a two-time All-Big East performer, is now a graduate assistant and assistant coach on defense for the Spartans.

This game was different from other games I’ve gone to. Since I was chaperoning Devell, this was an unofficial visit for him. With that said, we received a behind-the-scenes look of what it’s like to play football at MSU.

Our day began at 7:00 a.m. as we made the drive from Bay City to East Lansing. The itinerary told us to arrive at 9:30 a.m., but I wanted to get there early. Getting there early showed Devell that being on time is being late, and you should always arrive to places at least 30 minutes ahead of time.

We arrived an hour and 15 minutes early, but luckily he bumped into three of his fellow teammates, Dequez Weathers, Marcus Zavalla and Isaiah Newton. As I sat there feeling like an old man listening to them talk about their big high school win against Midland High School the night before, "Timmy Turner" and random things that high schoolers talk about, time swiftly passed and the tour began.

At the gate, we were greeted by my friend and fellow University of Cincinnati Grad Butler Benton, who is the recruiting coordinator at MSU. Devell and his friends were able to meet Butler, and the fun started.

As I fake chaperoned the group from Bay City Central, the youngsters were given questionnaires, and we sat at the table of defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett because he recruits the Flint, Saginaw and Bay City areas. As we sat, chatted and filled out the questionnaires, Curtis Blackwell, the director of college Advancement and performance, took the stage to greet the group.

After roughly five minutes of thanking the crowd of about 150 for coming to the game, he introduced Coach Dantonio. If you don’t know me, I love Dantonio. First off, he was a former defensive coordinator at Ohio State and part of the team that won the national championship in 2003. Yet, he also cut me from making the football team at the University of Cincinnati in 2005, but I was only cut because my broken foot wasn’t completely healed. I thank him for that because if I would have walked on to play football, my grades may have slipped, because the rigors of being a student-athlete are close to impossible to match.

I revere Coach D or should I say “Coach Dino” for so many reasons. He takes care of his former players after football. De’Angelo, Butler, Javon Ringer and many more are a testament to that statement. His usual saying that he makes 40 year relationships instead of 4 are beyond true. He was also an intricate piece in recruiting one of my best close friends Sirjo Welch to Ohio State in 2003-2004 while he was a member of the Buckeyes staff. I can go on and on about Coach, but to keep it short, he’s a damn good coach and a better person.

Back to what’s important.

When Coach D took the stage, all eyes were on him. His presence captivated the audience, and his charisma showed why players would run through a brick wall for him. Speaking to the group, it was sort of like the president talking. After his brief but powerful speech, Devell tapped me on the shoulder and said, “I didn’t know Coach Dantonio could smile.” I told him he’s all business on Saturdays but is overall a cool person. The time was around 10:40 a.m., and we had 15 minutes or so before we took the field for warm-ups.

After watching a highlight tape, the foursome from Bay City Central High School took pictures wearing Spartan green and white jerseys.

Isiah Newton, Dequez Weathers, Marcus Zavala, Devell Washington
Isaiah , Dequez Weathers, Marcus Zavalla, Devell Washington


The picture session was over, and while we waited to take the field, I ran into another friend, Alex Daniels. Alex was there with a few players from Franklin Heights High School in Columbus, Ohio. Daniels, who played his Division 1 football at Minnesota and Cincinnati, spoke to Devell about what it takes to be a D1 athlete. After receiving a Ray Lewis-like motivational speech, he was ready to strap on the pads.

As we made our way down to the field, I informed Devell that he would see some famous people. After about two minutes of watching warmups, Tom Izzo walked by. I shook Mr. Izzo’s hand, and Devell asked if he could take a picture with him. Izzo politely agreed. After seeing Coach Izzo, we met a few more past and present stars: former NFL All-Pro Julian Peterson, T.J. Duckett, Big Ten Network analyst (and Twitter favorite) Anthony "Spice" Adams, Gerry DiNardo, Mike Hall, gold medalist Emily Regan and class of 2016 hoops recruit Miles Bridges.

As we paraded the sidelines while watching Wisconsin and the Spartans warm up, Devell was able to meet Coach D’Lo Smith, and he received another motivational speech about the expectations of being a D1 athlete on and off the field.

Our time was up on the sideline, and we made our way to our seats, which were in the front row on the 20-yard line. Not bad, eh?

The game was a thrashing as MSU lost to Wisconsin 30-6, but Saturday afternoon was bigger than football.

Devell had a great time and received a wealth of knowledge about grades, accountability, respect, integrity and, lastly, football.

He left the game knowing that football is a vehicle that can take you to many places despite one’s background, economic status or race.

With hard work in the classroom and surrounding yourself with positive people, football will take care of itself.

For Michigan State, Saturday was a win for the program although the Spartans didn’t beat Wisconsin. The impact and atmosphere they provided were remarkable, and hopefully, it’ll have an everlasting effect on the future student-athletes who were in attendance.

Personally, I would like to thank Michigan State's football department for its hospitality. And as you can see, Uncle Hamp loves the kids.

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