Jan. 21, 2011
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State fifth-year seniors Charlie Gantt and Eric Gordon will participate in the 2011 East-West Shrine Game, scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 22 in Orlando, Fla. Gantt and Gordon will represent the East Team, led by former NFL head coach Dan Reeves, who won four conference championships (three AFC and one NFC) during his 23-year career. The 86th annual East-West Shrine Game will be televised by NFL Network, with kickoff set for 4 p.m. EST from Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium.
Gantt, a second-team All-Big Ten selection by the media in 2010, ranked fourth on the team in receptions with a career high 24 for 301 yards (12.5 avg.) and three touchdowns. The 6-foot-5, 255-pound tight end matched his career high with four receptions each at Penn State (38 yards) and Iowa (35). His 3-yard TD grab from wide receiver Keith Nichol with 8:31 left in the fourth quarter proved to be the game winner against the Nittany Lions as MSU claimed its first Big Ten Championship since 1990. He had three catches each at Northwestern (20) and against Wisconsin (41), including a 1-yard TD grab from Kirk Cousins that gave MSU a 27-17 lead late in the third quarter. His 29-yard TD reception from holder Aaron Bates, off a fake field-goal attempt, gave MSU a 34-31 overtime victory over Notre Dame.
A three-year starter from Farmington Hills, Mich., Gantt had 65 career receptions for 951 yards (14.6 avg.) and nine TDs. His career totals rank among the best ever produced by a Spartan tight end (tied for third in TD receptions; sixth in both receptions and receiving yards). He played in 43 career games, including 39 consecutive starts at tight end.
Eric Gordon finished second on the team in tackles (92) and production points (213) in 2010.
A second-team All-Big Ten selection by both the media and coaches, Gordon ranked second on the team in tackles (92) and production points (213). His 92 tackles matched his career high (2009). The 6-0, 232-pound linebacker produced 6.5 tackles for loss (18 yards), including two sacks (6). Gordon finished 13th in the Big Ten in tackles, averaging 7.1 per game.
A second-team All-Big Ten selection by both the media and coaches, Gordon ranks second on the team in tackles (88) and production points (213). He has produced 6.5 tackles for loss (18 yards), including two sacks (6). Gordon ranks 11th (tied) in the Big Ten in tackles, averaging 7.3 per game.
Gordon recorded a season-high 12 stops in the home finale against Purdue. He posted nine tackles each in back-to-back games against Iowa and Minnesota. Gordon made six stops, including one for a 2-yard loss, in MSU's 35-27 come-from-behind win at Northwestern, and his interception with 44 seconds left in the game iced it. He registered a tackle for loss in six-straight games during one late-season stretch. Gordon tallied 11 tackles, including 1.5 for losses (5 yards), against Florida Atlantic.
A native of Traverse City, Mich., Gordon ranks among MSU's all-time leaders in tackles for loss (tied for 10th with 29) and tackles (12th with 331). He started a school-record 49 career games, breaking the mark previously held by former Spartan tight end Chris Baker (47 career starts, 1998-2001). In addition, Gordon started more games at linebacker than any other player in MSU history (previous record holder: Dan Bass, 44 career starts from 1976-79).
Following Wednesday's practice, msuspartans.com conducted phone interviews with Gantt and Gordon.
How did you react when you first received the invitation to participate in the East-West Shrine Game?
Charlie Gantt:"I got the official invitation in late November or early December, so it was a big relief. It's truly an honor to play in this all-star game and I'm excited about being able to compete against some of the nation's best seniors."
Eric Gordon: "It was kind of a relief to receive the all-star game invitation prior to our bowl game. It provides me with another chance to prove myself against some of top players in college football and to showcase my talents for NFL scouts and general managers."
Eric, when the East Roster was first released, you were listed as a strong safety. Have you made the transition to strong safety or are you still playing outside linebacker?
Eric Gordon: "That experiment didn't last very long. It was so stressful lining up at the strong safety position. I have no knowledge of playing strong safety, so it was like trying to learn a foreign language. It stormed all day Monday, so we practiced for the first time in helmets and shorts inside the hotel ballroom. I felt awkward and uncomfortable at that position, so I got switched to will linebacker. I really like playing the will position, and most of the scouts and GMs told me that they like me as an outside linebacker, not as a safety prospect. What I really like about this defensive scheme is the fact that I still get to play in the box a lot."
Can you provide us with a practice update and what kind of feedback have you received from the East coaches?
Charlie Gantt: "The terminology is different and so is the numbering system. I'm the middle number, so I really have to listen for the outside numbers because those determine my alignment. It took a day or two to get the hang of it, but it hasn't been too bad.
"I've received great feedback thus far. The practices have gone a lot better than I expected. I've lost at least five pounds since the bowl game, so I feel like a little quicker. I've gotten a lot of positive feedback on my blocking and thus far, I've been running good routes and I haven't dropped a pass."
Eric Gordon: "At first, I was stressed out about it. I felt like my body is in good shape, but I had to get accustomed to carrying my pads again. The first couple of days, I didn't play like myself because I was thinking too much and worrying too much about the new terminology. Seeing all of the NFL personnel surrounding the field, I was concerned that I couldn't make a mistake. Wednesday, I flew around the practice field and started having fun. I tried not to think, but react. I felt completely different because I put up a wall and just focused on playing the game.
"I've received a lot of positive feedback from the NFL scouts and GMs. They really like my motor and the way I run down hill to the football. I've done a pretty good job in pass coverage. I've made some bone-head mistakes, but I'm learning a completely different defensive language and way of calling plays. We're also playing an under front versus the over front we ran at Michigan State. So it's been a real learning experience, but still the scouts and GMs have liked what they've seen from me."
Have there been many head-to-head matchups between Spartans during practice this week?
Eric Gordon: "I really haven't had many head-to-head matchups against Charlie (Gantt) in practice. I've probably been matched up against him once or twice, and that's probably a good thing because I don't want to feel bad by making him look bad (laughs)."
Can you identify some of your East teammates who have impressed you in practice this week?
Eric Gordon: "Offensively, Penn State's Evan Royster has had a good week of practice. Charlie Gantt and Purdue's Kyle Adams have been impressive at tight end. Defensively, Penn State's (defensive tackle) Olong Ogbu and Florida's (defensive end) Justin Trattou have been very disruptive."
How important is your performance in Saturday's East-West Shrine Game in terms of improving your NFL Draft stock?
Charlie Gantt: "This is an important week for me. I've been focused on having fun and playing with consistency. The scouts have been out in full force at practice.
"Honestly, I really want to win Saturday's game too because I haven't had the opportunity to walk out of Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium after a victory. I went 0-for-3 in bowl games here, so I'd really like to get that bad taste out of my mouth."
Eric Gordon: "It's been a stressful week because it's really been like a week-long job interview. I've gotten phone calls from scouts at 10:30 at night wanting to meet in the lobby. It's a process just like any profession. I'm considered a bubble guy for receiving an invitation to the NFL Combine, so I'm really look forward to Saturday's game. The practices have been stressful because the entire field is surrounded by scouts and GMs, and they literally watch every move you make. So I've simply concentrated on showing hustle and toughness in every drill and on every snap."