Michigan State took a chance on Darqueze Dennard, and it paid off

Jim Thorpe Award winner didn't get a scholarship offer from the Spartans until his last high school game. Now he's projected to go in the first round of the NFL Draft.
by Michael Baldwin Published: February 4, 2014
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Dantonio requested tape from Dennard's high school coach. Michigan State's staff agreed the kid from Dry Branch, a town with only a blinking yellow light, had tremendous upside.

“I hope this is an example for young kids where I grew up,” Dennard said. “A lot of them have nothing. Some become felons. They do negative things to get money. Hopefully I'm showing kids there are other routes you can take.”

This past season, Dennard helped lead the Spartans to their first Rose Bowl win in 16 years. After ending Ohio State's 24-game winning streak in the Big Ten Championship Game, Michigan State defeated Stanford 24-20. The Spartans finished 13-1.

Dennard is projected to graduate with a degree in communications. He will be the first member of his family to earn a college degree.

“I don't know what would have happened if that Michigan State coach hadn't been there,” Curry said. “He was definitely going to school, possibly a junior college. We were focused on getting a degree more than anything.”

Middle Tennessee State was the only school to show interest in Dennard his senior year but backed off. After Michigan State offered, other schools jumped on board. The kid in a graduating class of 30 suddenly was a hot commodity seven weeks before national signing day.

“This is all a dream,” Dennard said. “If Michigan State hadn't come along I'd probably be a barber or something. I wouldn't have played football. Who knows? This is truly a blessing. Every morning I wake up and thank God I got the opportunity.”


by Michael Baldwin
Reporter
Mike Baldwin has been a sports reporter for The Oklahoman since 1982. Mike graduated from Okmulgee High School in 1974 and attended Oklahoma Christian University, graduating with a journalism degree in 1978. Mike's first job was sports editor...
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