Aug. 23, 2012
By Steve Grinczel, Online Columnist
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Nobody spent one second campaigning on behalf of Michigan State's newly elected captains.
It wasn't necessary.
Senior linebacker Chris Norman, red-shirt junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell and junior middle linebacker Max Bullough were such strong choices, their qualifications can be expressed in a word here, a sentence here, maybe two there.
Although volumes will be written and broadcast about the three team leaders during the coming weeks, anything more than a paragraph extolling their virtues will be superfluous since they are already so obvious.
Never one to waste words, coach Mark Dantonio made that point economically clear while holding court with the media in the lobby of the Skandalaris Football Center after the Spartans broke preseason camp on Thursday:
- "Chris Norman...has traveled every game since his freshman year. He started even during his freshman year and played significant snaps. He brings that maturity in having gone through some injuries and being able to bounce back, so he brings that senior leadership to it. He's had a great summer camp."
-"I think Andrew Maxwell brings a certain amount of calmness, and efficiency and collectiveness."
-"Max Bullough brings a fierce warrior attitude to our football team. Not that the others don't, but I think that's how he responds - the aspect of not being intimidated by anything and to move forward."
It was also insightful to hear what each captain had to say about the other two.
Norman, the picture of poise and composure, gave a measured evaluation of his backer-mate and Michigan State's new starting QB.
"He's a standup guy," Norman said of Maxwell, who like himself wears jersey No. 10. "He's the quarterback of this team, and as a quarterback you have to be a leader. He's been steadily just a good person since he's been here and I think people respect that.
"And Max is really a tenacious guy. He gets the calls on defense so I guess you could say he's the quarterback of the defense. He's used to being in a leadership position, and I think he's just a natural-born leader."
Bullough, a bundle of combustible energy even when he's in street clothes, shared his views on Norman and Maxwell in a matter-of-fact tone.
"Chris is in the linebacker room with me and I know he's a guy who over the last few years has built tremendous confidence in himself and as a player, and it's noticeable," Bullough said. "A lot of guys have noticed that he steps up and talks when he needs to and plays his best when his best is needed. That's just a guy who's put a lot of work into it and has been able to heighten his leadership and playing ability.
"(Maxwell) is a guy of great character. He's just a natural leader. That's just the way he is. He was able to build it behind Kirk Cousins and now he's his own guy, his own player, his own leader. He's a guy you knew was going to be a captain the minute he walked in the door."
The thoughtful Maxwell demonstrated the same savvy he has shown on the field during camp by keeping his appraisal of Norman and Bullough from sounding like at testimonial at a Mutual Admiration Society luncheon.
"Chris is a guy who's really earned a lot of respect in the locker room," Maxwell said. "Top-down, guys respect him. Guys know he's going to be a hard worker. Guys respect him because he's battled back from a couple injuries a couple years in a row now and he never let it get him down and out. He just kept coming back for more, and now that he's in a position of leadership, he's going to use it to serve this team.
"Just down to his core, (Bullough) is a worker. He's going to do whatever it takes to make sure that he leaves that field victorious."
In accordance with a tradition started by Dantonio, a fourth captain will be designated from the runner-up pool of 12 players to join Norman, Maxwell and Bullough before each game.
"I do like that," Dantonio said. "We did that the last two years, and it just sort of happens. If four guys clearly got the significant votes we would go with the four. But three got the significant amount and everybody else sort of tailed off there. So I think it gives everybody an additional opportunity to lead, and the more people you have to lead ¡ the more success you can have in terms of handling adversity and pushing through things."
Maxwell stressed to his teammates that whatever leadership questions MSU may have weren't answered with the naming of the three captains.
'After it was announced out there on the field, we had a chance to address the team and I just told them, `Look, this thing doesn't work if it's just us three leading," Maxwell said. "The only way this thing works, and the way this team goes forward and gets to our goals is if 105 guys are leading each other.
"That's why we've been so successful, that's why we had a great summer and such a great camp. In every position room and at every position, we've got guys - seniors, starters, whatever it may be, who have really stepped up and assumed that leadership role in that little unit. If it's just the three of us doing all the leading, it's not going to work. It's got to be everybody working together."