July 26, 2013
By Steve Grinczel, MSUSpartans.com Online Columnist
CHICAGO - It was an ache unlike any Blake Treadwell ever felt as a 6-foot-3, 304-pound Michigan State offensive guard who's endured multiple knee injuries and devastating defeats.
As a fourth-through-sixth-grader, Treadwell wasn't nearly the imposing figure he is today, even in a relative sense. While his father Don, was working as a Michigan State assistant coach, Treadwell was being unmercifully bullied by some of his classmates.
"I had some very hard times in elementary school," Treadwell said Thursday at the Big Ten Kickoff Media Days. "I had trouble sometimes communicating with other kids and it was a very awkward stage for me. I really struggled with it - I'm not going to lie.
"I've put it behind me, but I still remember it well."
Treadwell continues to relate with today's victims of bullying and hopes his status as a Spartan starting offensive lineman can give them hope. He also would accept a role allowing him to advocate on their behalf because he knows first-hand the damage bullying can cause.
"It can put you in a really low, low place and sometimes you feel like you might not be able to get out of there," he said. "Sometimes you just don't want to be around anybody and sometimes you think nobody cares about you. Family does, but you still want to be accepted by your friends."
Treadwell said the bullying was typically verbal in nature and preferred not to go into specifics over how he was taunted. But, he was at a sensitive age when the pressure of peers can be oppressive and their remarks can cut to the quick.
"It's amazing how people think words can't hurt you, but as a kid growing up it can have a big influence on you," Treadwell said. "It just surprises you because they tell you sticks and stones may break my bones but words cannot hurt me.
"That's not true. Words can definitely hurt you, especially at a young age."
Treadwell persevered through the mocking with the help of his family and a close friend.
"My family helped me get through it along with a really good friend of mine, who I'm still friends with today and who will always be my friend because he was there for me when I needed him," Treadwell said. "Family and a really good friend can really make a difference.
"It very important for people to stand up to bullies. The biggest thing is nobody should keep quiet. If somebody's going through those types of issues, they should get help and reach out to other people because you can't take on something like that by yourself."
As Treadwell's body and athletic ability developed, the bullying subsided. By the time he starred as a prep All-American center at East Lansing High School, the bullying was nothing more than a painful memory.
Nevertheless, he fully supports the movement aimed at stamping out bullying.
"I've always been pretty quiet about it, but I wouldn't mind if somebody wanted me to come speak about my experiences," he said. "I'm still not a really big talker, but what I would tell them is they really have to go to their parents and not keep it in. My parents were on top of things. They knew what was going on and helped me push through things to make it a lot better.
"Things started to change for me when I started playing football in seventh grade. Sports were a really good release for me and made me feel a lot better about myself. Sports really helped me in middle school."
When Mark Dantonio became the head coach at Cincinnati, he hired Don Treadwell to be his offensive coordinator. After Dantonio took over the MSU program, Don accompanied him and Blake received a scholarship in 2009. Don is currently the head coach at Miami of Ohio.
Dantonio has nothing but admiration for Treadwell.
"Blake's a tremendous success story," Dantonio said. "He's grown as a leader on our football team and I think our players deeply respect him. I've been involved in Blake's life for a long time, so I've seen him grow, but it was tough in that area.
"He's a bigger kid, and I've heard about some of the experiences he's had, and he became very quiet. I think it would be beneficial if he could (become a spokesperson). He sees things very candidly."
A sociology major, Treadwell emerged victorious over his tormentors in the end.
"Nobody would think of trying to bully me now," he said.