Celebrate 2013 Weekend
Michigan State Athletics Mission Statement
Sept. 12, 2013
Thursday night, the Michigan State athletics department began the Celebrate 2013 Weekend, by holding the 2013 Hall of Fame Induction and Varsity Letter Jacket Ceremony at the Pasant Theatre at Wharton Center. The event honored Spartans past and present.
Athletics Director Mark J. Hollis was the MC of the evening. After a video from MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon, Hollis welcomed the near-capacity crowd and recognized some distinguished guests and current Varsity S Award recipients. The program transitioned into the introduction of the 2013 Hall of Fame class. One at a time, they came to the stage to watch a video on their MSU accomplishments and address the audience.
Upon conclusion of the speeches, the focus shifted to the current Spartan student-athletes. A video featuring past letterwinners talking about the honor of wearing their letter jacket transitioned into the respective coaching staffs announcing their students-athletes and managers. In total 140 of the deserving 145 student-athlete and managers were in attendance to receive their jackets from their head coach.
Earlier in the day, the Hall of Fame press conference and reception were held in the Christman Lounge at the Kellogg Center. Each inductee received their Hall of Fame award from Athletics Director Mark J. Hollis prior to the press conference, and posed for a group photo at its conclusion.
Each inductee plaque is now hanging in the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame inside the Clara Bell Smith Center.
Sept. 11, 2013
The Michigan State Athletics Department will "Celebrate 2013" over the next three days (Sept. 12-14). The fourth-annual event is dedicated to all former and current student-athletes who have provided the department with a storied past and a winning tradition that continues.
The weekend includes the Varsity Letter Jacket Presentation, the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, the announcement of the Varsity S Club award winners, and culminates Saturday afternoon when the Spartan football team hosts Youngstown State at Spartan Stadium at 2 p.m.
The "Celebrate 2013" weekend will begin Thursday, Sept. 12 with the Class of 2013 Hall of Fame Induction and Varsity Letter Jacket Presentation at Wharton Center's Pasant Theatre. This closed ceremony, which will be attended by varsity sport head and assistant coaches, is for student-athletes who received their first varsity letter during the 2012-13 academic year. In all, 145 student-athletes and managers will receive their letter jacket on Thursday night.
Prior to the MSU student-athletes receiving their letter jackets, the five-member Hall of Fame class of Henry Bullough (football), Kip Miller (hockey), Ryan Miller (hockey), Morris Peterson (basketball) and Jenna Wrobel (volleyball) will be recognized.
Also during this event, the 2013 Varsity S Club award winners and the Varsity S Club Class of 2013 Honorary Members will be honored. This year's Varsity S Club award winners are Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll (Nell Jackson Outstanding Alumna Award), Lauren Aitch (Cheryl M. Gilliam Young Alumni Award), Duane Vernon (Clarence "Biggie" Munn Extra Effort Award), George J. Perles (Henry C. Bullough Varsity `S' Service Award), Karen Langeland (VanSpybrook Retired Coaches Award) and Eric Zemper (Jack Breslin Life Achievement Award). The honorary members of the Varsity S Club Class of 2013 are Bruce Coleman, Seth Kesler, Jennifer Smith and Scott Westerman.
At halftime of Saturday's game, all of the student-athletes who attended the Varsity Letter Jacket Presentation will take the field, along with the Hall of Fame inductees. The Varsity S Club award winners and honorary members will be honored at the end of the first quarter.
"Celebrate 2013" Weekend Events
Thursday, Sept. 12
Friday, Sept. 13
Saturday, Sept. 14
2013 Hall of Fame Class - Henry Bullough
Online columnist Steve Grinczel profiles former football letterman and assistant coach Henry Bullough.
At 79, Henry Bullough considers his induction into the Michigan State University Athletics Hall of Fame a great honor that comes with matching responsibility.
Through his work with the MSU Football Players Association, the Varsity S Club and other organizations, Bullough has long been the de facto gatekeeper of the school's illustrious football past in addition to being the patriarch of a family that has delivered sons Shane and Chuck, and grandsons Max and Riley, to Spartan football prominence.
Bullough is a living connection between the great names and games written on the pages of history books and today's athletes and young fans.
Biggie Munn? Bullough played three seasons for the legendary coach from 1951-53, starting at guard as a sophomore and junior. The '52 team was second in the nation in total offense with 429 yards per game.
Duffy Daugherty? In '54, Bullough finished out his playing career under the beloved Irishman, who inherited a nationally acclaimed powerhouse from Munn, and then coached under him for 11 seasons.
The 10-10 tie? Bullough was a part of the infamous deadlock between No. 2 MSU and No. 1 Notre Dame in 1966 as an assistant coach on Daugherty's staff.
National Championships? Bullough played on the Spartans' 1951 and `52 national championship teams and helped coach the '65 and '66 squads that were recognized at the No. 1 team in the country.
Big Ten membership? Bullough was there as a player in '53 when the Spartans won the conference championship in their first season of eligibility. He also played on MSU's first Rose Bowl team, which defeated UCLA, 28-20.
Throw in a four-year professional playing career, a 26-year coaching tenure as a defensive guru in the NFL, including Super Bowl championship with the Baltimore Colts and a stint as the head coach of the Buffalo Bills, and it's easy to see why Bullough is considered a walking, talking encyclopedia of Michigan State knowledge and wisdom.
And his induction into the Hall of Fame makes him the embodiment of all those Spartans he played alongside and coached in a bygone era.
"When I started as a sophomore, we were on a 28-game winning streak, so that was three years of winning," Bullough said. "So this isn't about me as much as the people I'm representing and how lucky I am to do that. I never had the goal to be in the Hall of Fame, so it's not about what you accomplished, it's what the people accomplished that you were with.
"What I think about is how lucky you are to be the one chosen from so many."
Among Bullough's favorite things to do is organizing reunions of Michigan State's greatest teams so long-time fans can get reacquainted with noteworthy former players while a new generation of followers can meet them for the first time. It doesn't take long to realize that Bullough's favorite adjective is the word "great."
"I like to bring the great teams back to campus," he said. "I was so fortunate to coach in the 10-10 game against Notre Dame. I believe what Ara Parseghian said, too, that if it wouldn't have ended up in a tie it wouldn't be such a great thing, but it still is a great spectacle because of what it came to represent.
"For the kids nowadays, it's important to let them know who George Webster was," Bullough said of the player regarded the greatest in MSU history, and who died in 2007. "When I talk about a Leroy Bolden, I don't know if people know he was one of the greatest backs who ever played here at Michigan State. You bring up Eric Allen, `The Flea,' who rushed for 350 yards out of the wishbone (against Purdue in 1971). Even my youngest son (Chuck), who's still the leading tackler in one year with 175 (in 1991). That's not going to be touched for a long time.
"I think keeping people of today up-to-date with those players is really important, I really do. But it's hard to do because there aren't many people in positions of prominence that know those players. You mention a guy like Don Coleman and they say, `Who?' Well Don Coleman is probably the greatest lineman who ever played here."
Bullough can take people back to a halcyon time when Michigan State inspired a generation with its gridiron success, helped break down color barriers with the unrestricted integration of minorities and ushered in, with Notre Dame, the modern age of college football.
Television coverage, media attention and fan popularity was forever changed by the 1966 game in Spartan Stadium.
"When we were winning 28 straight games, we were automatically expected to win all the time," he said. "The 10-10 tie is a great big thing in my memory because of what it accomplished. It was the first time a college game was broadcast overseas and to Hawaii, and it changed the game. There were 36 guys who played in that game who went on to play professional football ─ Notre Dame had 20 and we had 16.
"But when we beat them 35-0 in '51, after all their national championships in the '40s, that has to be a key game in Michigan State football."
While Bullough could have earned induction into the Hall of Fame for his MSU bloodline alone, his body of work speaks for itself to anybody willing to listen.
"When I look back upon it, I've been able to do everything than you can imagine in football," he said. "I played on college championship teams. I played on national championship teams. I played on a Rose Bowl championship team. I coached national championship teams. I coached a Rose Bowl team.
"I was able to accomplish just about everything a guy in my profession can accomplish. Regardless of whether I would have gotten into the Hall of Fame or not, I think one of my roles here is to keep the here-and-now and the future up with the past, and that takes a lot of work."
And even though Bullough is now in the Hall of Fame, advocating the accomplishments of the greats in Spartan history is something he won't stop doing anytime soon.
2013 Hall of Fame Class - Kip Miller
Online columnist Steve Grinczel profiles former hockey All-American Kip Miller.
Kip Miller scored 74 goals for seven different National Hockey League teams during his 14-year professional career. His best season was 1998-99 when he scored 19 goals and appeared in 13 playoff games for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Miller was among the 1 percent, or less, of college athletes who get to perform their sport at its highest level. Making it to the NHL was a reward for the countless hours he spent learning his craft.
And yet, there's a very good reason why Miller calls getting inducted into the Michigan State University Athletics Hall of Fame his greatest achievement in sports.
Playing for the Spartans was a matter of the heart; playing professionally was a means to an end.
Certainly, what represents the pinnacle for an athlete is going have as many variations as there are athletes. For some, making a pro team far exceeds anything they did in college.
But for Miller, who idolized the Spartan greats while growing up in the shadow of MSU, being enshrined in the school's most exclusive athletic club is an incomparable privilege.
"I grew up in East Lansing a Spartan," Miller said. "My whole family is Spartans. All I grew up wanting to be was a Spartan. Those were my idols. I went to football games, we went to baseball, we went to hockey. Basketball was tough because it was also hockey season, but we watched.
"I grew up watching Kirk Gibson, Steve Garvey and Magic Johnson. I was at the parade when Magic them won the national championship in 1979 and it was just the greatest thing in Lansing. And now I'm one of them. It's quite an honor."
It's not like Miller is lacking for perspective in the honor department.
As MSU's rookie of the year in 1986-87, he scored 20 goals and had 22 assists while helping the defending national champion Spartans get back to the NCAA final, where it lost to North Dakota in the title game. During an abbreviated sophomore season, in which he also competed for Team USA at the World Junior Championships in Moscow, Miller still contributed 41 points (16 goals, 25 assists) to Michigan State's cause.
As a junior, he had 32 goals and 45 assists to tie teammate Bobby Reynolds for the NCAA scoring championship with 77 points. He also led MSU back to its third Frozen Four in four seasons ─ his second in three ─ where it fell to Harvard in the national semifinals. He earned first-team All-Central Collegiate Hockey Association honors in addition to being named first-team All-America.
After leading the nation in scoring for a second straight season as a senior in 1989-90, Miller became the first Spartan to receive the Hobey Baker Memorial Award ─ the Heisman Trophy of collegiate hockey ─ which is presented annually to the country's top player. His 101 points (48 goals, 53 assists) still rank second on Michigan State's all-time list. Miller repeated as a first-team All-American, was named CCHA Player of the Year and first-team All-CCHA for the second season in a row.
Miller left MSU with two CCHA regular season championships, a pair of CCHA playoff crowns and four appearances in the NCAA Tournament.
"I just know we had a really good team and I had really good linemates I was comfortable with," said Miller, who centered the line that included Pat Murray and Dwayne Norris. "We played a style of hockey that was about scoring goals and not about not getting scored on.
"It was a lot different then. When you took the ice, you went after teams and tried to score. I've got to believe that's the biggest reason I'm in the position I am today. I mean, I worked hard and prepared for the season, but we were a good team."
Miller said Boston College's Greg Brown was the favorite to win the Hobey Baker that year.
"What I remember is I wasn't supposed to win it," Miller said. "Greg Brown was coming back from the Olympic team and apparently was an NHLer who just decided to come back to play one more season, and I took that to heart because I was in the running and I wanted to be the best that I could be, and I thought it would help the team.
"But I didn't really ever think much about it other than, `Oh well, let's see what we can do.' I didn't think there was any more pressure on me than just being a Spartan and wanting to win for the school."
That was a genetic condition bestowed on him by his father, Lyle, who played for MSU in '63-64, his uncle Elwood (Butch), a Michigan State defenseman in the `50s and older Spartan brothers Kelly and Kevin.
"I give credit to my Uncle Butch and my dad for coming to (East Lansing) from Canada, raising a family there, going to Spartan games over and over ─ that's what we did every weekend ─ and teaching us the game and telling us we wanted to be Spartans and we were Spartans," Miller said. "When Kelly went there, I realized, `Man, I could go to school at Michigan State. How cool.'
"I didn't even think any other way. We were kids playing in the area and watching (record-setting stars) Tom Ross and Steve Colp to see what it was like to be a Spartan, but I was like, `Wow, I didn't think we'd ever be that good.' Then I remember watching Kelly and his teams and really loving it."
Miller scored 25 goals and handed out 47 assists in his final season of professional hockey with the minor-league Grand Rapids Griffins in '06-07. After retiring, he entered private business and is a part-owner of Walnut Hills Country Club in East Lansing. He also owns a Bigby coffee franchise in Traverse City, where he has lived for about a year.
However, there's no question where the center of Miller's universe is located.
"The NHL was definitely a special experience," he said. "But for me, I didn't grow up watching the (Detroit) Red Wings or pro hockey because it just wasn't on TV. Of course I knew about it, but I grew up watching Spartan hockey. To me, that was the ultimate thing.
"The NHL was an add-in later because you were like, `Wow, I've been drafted, I can go to the pros.' But that was something you did as a job with a bunch of guys trying to make a living who also wanted to win. You went to that school because you wanted to go to school there and play for that team. That's just the way it felt to me and why this honor is bigger than anything I've ever gotten in the pros."
2013 Hall of Fame Class - Ryan Miller
Online columnist Steve Grinczel profiles former hockey All-American Ryan Miller.
Michigan State hockey can't be categorized as a collection of memories for Ryan Miller. It can't even be categorized as a life-changing experience.
It's fair to say, it's an integral part of his very being.
"I've been going to Munn Arena since before I have real memories," the 2001 Hobey Baker Award winner and two-time All-American said. "For me, Michigan State has been a big part of my life ever since I was a very, very young person. Almost from my first days or weeks of my life I'm sure I had green and white on and was at the rink.
"It's nice to have had that kind of career at Michigan State, but I would have been honestly happy to just have a chance to go there (as a student). To have it be such a fun time, when we were able to win hockey games and meeting a great group of guys who I'm close with to this day, ended up defining the direction my life was going to take."
Miller's induction into the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame, therefore, is another layer of immortality for the first family of Spartan hockey and him.
His grandfather, Elwood, and father, Dean, played hockey for Michigan State, as did cousins Kelly, Kevin and Kip, his uncle Lyle and brother, Drew. Ryan is being joined in the incoming Hall of Fame class by Kip, who won the Hobey Baker Award in 1990.
"Coming from a family that had so much going on with Michigan State, and with my cousins playing there at a time when I was young and impressionable, impacted me a lot," Miller said. "I'm very proud and very appreciative of what I was able to take away from Michigan State. It gave me an opportunity to advance myself as a player and as a person, and to also leave a mark."
And what a mark it was, though it lasted just three years before Miller left early to join the NHL Buffalo Sabres, who picked him in the 1999 draft.
"Looking back at the three years I spent at Michigan State, and how quickly my 12 years in pro hockey have gone by, my freshman year was about 15 years ago," said Miller, who is embarking on his 12th season in Buffalo. "It's pretty amazing how things go so quickly, but it has me reflecting a little bit more on everything now.
"I feel fortunate for what I've been able to take from hockey, and what's helped me get to the level I've been able to play at for the last 12 years. Obviously, Michigan State is a big part of that. To be recognized as someone who had a positive impact on the sports side of things feels good."
Miller staked his claim to a hallowed place in Spartan athletic history almost from the time he first set a blade on the Munn ice as a freshman in 1999-2000. The way he played not only convinced legendary coach Ron Mason that he should be splitting time with returning first-team All-American goalie Joe Blackburn during the regular season, it earned him the starting job throughout the Central Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs. He was the first CCHA goalie to record back-to-back shutouts in semifinal and championship games.
Fears of Miller going through a sophomore slump were quickly dashed as he went on to set an NCAA record for goals against average (1.32) and save percentage (.950). He compiled a 31-5-4 record in 40 starts and was named CCHA Player of the Year, USA College Hockey Player of the Year, The Hockey News College Player of the Year and first-team All-America.
In addition to leading the Spartans to the 2001 Frozen Four, Miller became the second member of his family, and second goalie to win college hockey's top honor, the Hobey Baker Award.
Miller came close to pulling off the near-impossible feat of duplicating those accomplishments when as a junior he compiled a 26-9-5 record, posted a 1.77 GAA and a .900 save percentage, earned CCHA top goalie and player-of-the-year honors, was a first-team All-American and a Hobey Baker finalist.
He left MSU with one CCHA regular season championship, two CCHA Tournament titles and three NCAA Tournament appearances. His journey also includes a trip to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, where he led the U.S. national team to the gold-medal game against eventual winner Canada and came away with Most Valuable Player accolades.
Asking Miller to single out the most influential person in his hockey life is like having him recite the details of every save he made as a Spartan.
"That'd be a little unfair to the number of people who helped shape me as a person and the player I was while I was there and wouldn't be able to mention," he said. "But, I'm going to try to make a list. Everyone associated with the hockey program and the scholastic student-athlete program were great assets, and not just while I was at Michigan State.
"It continues to this day as friends of mine who have been a nice part of my life. They've been some good quality people I could call on when I needed some help. Or, when I was approaching a point in my life where I hadn't been in a situation yet, I had plenty of people who cared enough to give good advice."
In addition to everyone in his family and Mason, Miller acknowledged there's a warm spot in his heart for: MSU assistant coach Tom Newton, Spartans associate head athletic trainer Dave Carrier ("He was great for giving advice..."), equipment manager Tom Magee ("He was fun to talk to..."), director of student-athlete development Angela Montie ("Remains a good friend..."), team doctor Jennifer Gilmore ("She has been a great resource for me...") and strength-and-conditioning coach Ken Mannie ("Who always welcomes me back with open arms and helped push me to get better...").
With Miller's place in MSU history secure, some of his ex-teammates have called to extend their best wishes.
"Some of the former Michigan State guys have reached out and said congratulations," Miller said. "They also just wanted to remind me that they spent a lot of hard work making me look good.
"But it's nice to hear from the guys. They know how much this means to me and my family. They're happy for us."
2013 Hall of Fame Class - Morris Peterson
Online columnist Steve Grinczel profiles former men's basketball All-American Morris Peterson.
> Morris Peterson never catches himself asking, "Did I really help Michigan State win a national championship 13 years ago, or was it all a dream?"
"I just call Mateen, and he reminds me, `Do you..., UN-DER-STAND..., we won a national championship, Pete, and we can go anywhere we want to?'" Peterson said. "Even if I don't talk to Andre Hutson for a while, when I do it feels like we just got off the floor an hour ago.
"We're all still connected and genuinely love each other, and that's what Spartan basketball is for me. We sacrificed as individuals for each other and the good of the team."
The NCAA title Peterson won with point guard Mateen Cleaves, who Peterson is joining in the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame, and Hutson, the imposing junior power forward, is as real to him today as it was when he was living the moment on the RCA Dome court that Monday night in Indianapolis.
"I wish the whole team could get into the Hall of Fame because they helped get me to where I'm at today," Peterson said.
Not targeted for greatness when Spartans coach Tom Izzo recruited him out of Flint Northwestern High School, Peterson's journey to the Hall has been an unlikely one.
"Coming in, I wasn't the highest-recruited guy, but Coach Iz took a chance on me," he said. "When I arrived at Michigan State, there were definitely some things I needed to correct and get better at. I'm thankful that Coach Izzo and all the great assistant coaches were able to bring out the best in me, because sometimes it's hard to leave home and have to trust someone else.
"I think from Day One, my parents trusted Coach Iz. I'm so humbled to be mentioned with the all-time greats. Hopefully, I'll live to be 100 and be able to show my grandkids this, and they'll be able to say, `When my grandfather played at Michigan State, they won a national championship.'"
Peterson arrived on campus out-of-shape and with a suspect work-ethic. He left as one of the most accomplished and beloved figures in MSU history. But not before experiencing one of his first of several painful growing pains as a freshman in 1995-96.
"I missed a few classes and Coach brought me in in front of the team and told me if I missed another class, I wasn't going to (the Maui Invitational in) Hawaii," Peterson recalled. "So, I got my clothes out and went to bed early because I had a 30-minute walk across campus (for an 8 a.m. class). But, I woke up at 7:45 a.m. because I set my alarm clock for 7 p.m., and I overslept.
"So I go to my other classes, and then when I walked in to get ready for practice, Coach had another little meeting, and tells me, `Morris, you're not going to Hawaii.' I was devastated because here I am, a kid who's never been out of Flint and I was really looking forward to going. It was the hardest thing at the time."
Because the tournament was held over Thanksgiving break, Peterson watched the Spartans play games and relax on the beach on television.
"The campus was basically closed, but I didn't want to stay in the dorm because nobody else was there and the cafeterias weren't open," Peterson said. "So I stayed in the Breslin Center and slept in the lounge, ordered pizza every day and practiced on my own.
"That really changed my mindset. It was one the things that helped me realize I needed to be accountable. I think that tough love was what I needed."
Other defining moments followed, such as his remarkable conversion into a defensive stalwart as a redshirt sophomore in '97-98 when a broken right (non-shooting) wrist limited him offensively.
Whipped into shape by his junior season, Peterson cracked the starting lineup just four times in '98-99. Nevertheless, he helped MSU win a second straight Big Ten regular season championship and its first league tournament crown. The Spartans also reached their first of six Final Fours under Izzo with Peterson averaging 13.6 points and 5.7 rebounds per game while becoming the first so-called "sixth man" to earn first-team All-Big Ten honors.
Firmly established as one of the nation's best players going into the 1999-2000 season, Peterson went on to lead the Spartans in scoring with 16.8 points per game, earn first-team All-America and All-Big Ten honors and Big Ten Player of the Year accolades.
With Peterson leading Michigan State's withering fast break, the Spartans repeated as league regular season and tournament champs and went on to defeat Florida for the national title. Peterson was named Most Outstanding Player of the Midwest Regional for the second straight year and earned a spot on the All-Final Four team by averaging 20.5 points and 4.5 rebounds against Wisconsin in the national semifinal and the Gators.
"I remember almost everything about the championship run," Peterson said. "But what I remember most is thinking, I've got to take advantage of this so I can tell the guys who came after me to take advantage of the time you have now to give it your all because you don't want look back and say, `I wish I would have done this.'
"I didn't want to leave Michigan State with any regrets. I wanted to leave it all on the floor, and help my teammates get better any way I could. You have to sacrifice some of the things you think you want."
As the first-round pick of the Toronto Raptors, Peterson went on to play 11 NBA seasons, which also included stops in New Orleans and Oklahoma City.
Far from living in the past, Peterson is keeping his message of discipline and hard work relevant in the business world and as the parent of two sets of twins - 3-year-old Maliyah and Meilani and 5-month-old Aleena and Morris III - with his wife, Tara.
"That's been keeping me busy," said Peterson, who frequently shuttles between his home in Grand Blanc and business interests in Florida. "I'm approaching business with the same hard work, determination and goal-setting I learned from Coach Izzo and his assistant coaches.
"It's just so great to be living out your dream."
After retiring from the pros, Peterson started a transportation company in Miami. And in November, he'll launch a line of sports apparel line called World Artists Refuge, which integrates art with fashion and is geared toward children from preschool to high school.
"I want to help bring creativity back into the schools through art programs and teach kids the importance of being creative, because that's how I came into my own," Peterson said. "I like to draw and I always liked to wear nice clothes. A lot of kids are into fashion these days, so this is an avenue to reach them and help them do the right thing by setting goals for themselves."
It's not unlike the path Peterson followed as a Spartan.
"I have such an emotional connection to Michigan State," Peterson said. "I tell people MSU gave me the blueprint for life and what I needed - the keys to discipline, hard work, tough love when you need it and knowing that you have to earn it. You have to be patient and soak it all in and get it. It's the blueprint for what I'm doing now.
"And if I'm riding down the street in Florida and I see a Michigan State alum sticker, I'm blowing my horn and chasing them down just so I can say `Go Green' to them. That's the fun part for me."
2013 Hall of Fame Class - Jenna Wrobel
Online columnist Steve Grinczel profiles former volleyball All-American Jenna Wrobel.
Few Spartans have dominated their sports the way Jenna Wrobel dominated volleyball. And yet, the unassuming former All-American remains a reluctant star.
"Those records are still there, huh?" she said recently from her home in Southern California.
Yes, and enough certificates of acclamation to wear out a printer, not that they mattered all that much to Wrobel when she was spiking the daylights out of opponents from 1995-98.
"I just played," Wrobel said. "The awards and accolades that came with it..., I'm not a big person on that. That's not why I played. I played for my teammates and my school and for the love of the game. I get embarrassed when people bring that stuff up.
"I go, it's not a big deal, it's whatever. I guess that's why my husband tells everybody, because I don't want to sound like I'm bragging. I don't like to draw attention to myself."
That was a challenge in itself for Wrobel, who as a 6-foot freshman helped lift Michigan State's long-struggling program to its initial Big Ten championship, followed by another in 1996; the first of four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances; and its only trip to the Final Four.
Her 2,292 career kills and 54 20-kill matches have been untouchable for 14 seasons and likely will stay that way for the foreseeable future. She holds the top two spots for 20-kill matches in a season with 19 in 1997 and 18 in '98 and for total kills in each of those campaigns with 671 and 641, respectively. No one has come close to her kills per set (5.94, which led the nation in '98, and 5.37 in '97) or her career mark of 5.16 kills per set.
Wrobel, the only Spartan to earn Freshman All-America and Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors, capped off her career by becoming just the fourth MSU player to be named first-team All-America and setting an unmatched school record with her fourth appearance on the all-conference first-team.
Although Wrobel didn't consciously set out to attract the spotlight, it was as if pursuing greatness was programmed into her DNA.
"Once I was out there on the court, I'd just get super-competitive," she said.
After a stint on the U.S. National Team from 1999-2000, Wrobel retired from the game for good, but being named to MSU's Athletics Hall of Fame has stirred up old emotions.
"It's bringing me right back to being a volleyball player again," she said. "I'm just trying to absorb the monstrosity of it and how big this is. I haven't really been able to wrap my head around it.
"It makes me realize how much I really miss the competition and my teammates. Going out on the court and having that one goal with 12 other girls is nothing you can replace and nothing you will ever have again in your lifetime. We dominated and the competitive edge is coming back out in me. But also, the sad side is, it's over and you'll never have that again in your life."
The training regimen Wrobel and the Spartans endured under former coach Chuck Erbe, and the relationships she made during her time at Michigan State, helped shape her into the person she is today: a wife, a mother and a sixth-grade teacher.
"We worked extremely hard," Wrobel said. "We were up at 5 o'clock practicing during our offseason in the Breslin Center, then we'd go to class, and then we would go back to practice, and then we'd go for conditioning and then to the weight room.
"When you're in the midst of it, it's not easy. But it's the hard work, determination and sacrifice that you have to make. You were proud of yourself for getting through it day in and day out. It was fun, looking back."
She recalled in particular the influence of co-captains Courtney DeBolt, then a senior setter, and fellow Hall-of-Famer Dana Cooke, then a junior, in '95.
"My freshman year when I came onto the scene, we had an unbelievable group of juniors, seniors and sophomores who showed me the way and built me as a person and as a player," Wrobel said. "When I was in my sophomore year, Dana's senior year, we were playing in Florida (at the NCAA Central Regional) and she had made a spiral shape for everyone on the team. And that shape stood for your personality and what you brought to the team.
"What she wrote on mine was so positive and hit home: Take charge, you're a leader."
They were qualities Wrobel said she didn't see in herself before going on to succeed Cooke as a co-captain in '97 and '98.
"I still have that shape," Wrobel said.
In a recent interview, on MSU Athletics Director Mark Hollis' weekly radio show, current volleyball coach Cathy George said this of Wrobel: "Jenna came into a team in the '90s that was very talented but was missing that one key. (She) had experience and athleticism and was just a great player. She's the person that kind of pushed Michigan State over the edge to capture a Final Four appearance and bring that team to the top level. She was the missing link."
After moving out West, Wrobel dabbled a little bit in volleyball, but eventually stepped entirely way from the game, much to the surprise of family and friends, while devoting her time and work-ethic to her husband Tim Grave, a high-school history teacher and former volleyball player at Long Beach State, 2 ½-year-old daughter Addison and career.
"After I got my teaching job, I stopped coaching and I don't really play anymore," Wrobel said. "My husband used to coach at his high school and I used to go in and beat up the boys a little bit. But I think that was such a special time in my life, I don't really have the need to partake in it. I just don't want to play anymore. People expect you to at least play for fun, but that's not fun for me because I get too competitive. And I'm not at the level I used to play at.
"I played my fair share of volleyball for 15 years and now I just really enjoy being a teacher and a mom. And laying on the beach on my towel."
For a few days, however, when Wrobel returns to campus for the first time since graduating, she'll relive many of the moments that set the stage for her Hall of Fame induction while allowing herself to stand in awe of her accomplishment.
"It's an absolute honor to be thought of in such a way by such an amazing university in an unbelievable conference and one of the top conferences in the country," she said. "My husband was looking up all of the prior Hall-of-Fame people and said, `This is so cool; you're going to be in the Hall of Fame with all these great athletes.' It just humbles me."