Aug 22, 2013
By Steve Grinczel, MSUSpartans.com Online Columnist
EAST LANSING, Mich. - One is a natural-born leader with one National Championship, a Rose Bowl win and three Big Ten titles, spanning 60 years, in his Michigan State bloodline.
The other rarely spoke as a true freshman from an obscure high school in rural Georgia.
The third is an unassuming gentle giant outside of the Spartans locker room and off the field.
Together, middle linebacker Max Bullough, cornerback Darqueze Dennard and offensive guard Blake Treadwell will use the captaincies bestowed upon them by a vote of their teammates to push, pull, prod and lead MSU as far as it can go this season.
All three gave an acceptance speech, of sorts, Wednesday night, with the fiery Bullough setting the tone for the weeks ahead with what Dennard described as "mind-blowing" delivery.
Bullough's message, "We control our own destiny," Dennard said, "is just going to motivate us and continue to push us throughout this season."
Dantonio said Bullough, Dennard and Treadwell "have such great respect from their teammates because they're tough guys, they work extremely hard, they've had success and they've been good teammates," head coach Mark Dantonio said Thursday. "They're foxhole guys.
"They're guys you want with you when there are times of trouble, and that's the biggest compliment I can say about a young man. When the storms are at their highest, they will be there for you. They earned that respect from me."
Andrew Maxwell, a senior engaged in a fierce competition for the No. 1 quarterback spot, was not re-elected. But, Dantonio said, he received enough votes to be named to the 12-player Unity Council and will be one of the weekly co-captains throughout the course of the season.
"He was elected on the second or third vote as one of the leaders on our team, so that's a positive sign," Dantonio said. "All 12 of those guys have a strong leadership role. It's not so much what Andrew didn't do, it's what Blake Treadwell did do and when you vote as a team, it's just going to come out. You have to weight it, look at it and let the players speak.
"They took action in that area, but it doesn't mean Andrew Maxwell isn't a leader on this team. He's a very big part of this team and a very big leader. He's an unbelievable young man with a lot of pressure on him this last year, and he continues to have a lot of pressure on him. Andrew Maxwell is a tremendous example of a giver."
Bullough, who served as captain last season as a junior, was a shoe-in to be re-elected, but Dennard and Treadwell came from a deep pool of 19 seniors. The trio will bear the most responsibility for being the conduit between the players and Dantonio and his staff, but there will be no shortage of leadership this season, Dennard promised.
"Any one of them could have been a captain," Dennard said of his fifth- and fourth-year classmates. "They're all great guys, they're all talented players and they all have great hearts. We didn't have too many seniors last year, but with my class, these seniors all played the game and they've been playing for a long time, so they all have confidence, they all have experience and people look up to them.
"They've all played in the big games and know what we did to win the big games."
Bullough not only likes the way he and his cohorts lead by example, but also vocally, through their diverse personalities and by the respect they command.
"We have a lot of seniors so there's been a lot of leadership this whole camp and this whole offseason," Bullough said. "There's a lot of seniors in each (position) room, and now we have three main leaders across different positions and on different sides of the ball.
"That's just going to allow us to have more reach, and a deeper reach on this team to make sure we're all on the same page. The differences between a guy like Treadwell and guys like me and Quez just allows us to be more dynamic."
Like Dennard, Treadwell is quiet by nature. But, he has always found a way to step out of his comfort zone for a worthy cause, and this season, that just happens to be going out on the highest possible note.
"The work you put on the field, the players respect that and that's why they chose me," Treadwell said. "I'm just going to give it my all, and whatever the team needs, I'll bring it. Being a senior, I want this to be the best year I can (have) so if I have to speak up, I will.
"If you look around our team this year, everybody's speaking. So if anything, everybody's a leader. These seniors care about everything, and these seniors have voice. We're very cohesive."
Bullough came to Michigan State with expectations emblazoned with a green-and-white family coat of arms.
His grandfather, Henry, played on the Spartans' undefeated 1952 National Championship team and the 1953 squad that shared the Big Ten title in its first season of conference competition. That team also beat UCLA in the '54 Rose Bowl and Henry went on to have a long and celebrated career in the collegiate and NFL coaching ranks.
Bullough's father Shane was part of the rebuilding effort that ended for him in 1986 but produced league and Rose Bowl Championships the following season.
Bullough's uncle Chuck helped MSU win the 1990 Big Ten crown and as a freshman, Max contributed significantly to the 2010 run to the league championship, as well as the Legends Division title in 2011.
He is the latest manifestation of the Bullough legacy - younger brother and Spartan red-shirt freshman running back Riley is poised to receive the baton - that's been so important to Michigan State for decades.
"Continuity, foundation, tradition - those types of things when you go all the way back to Henry Bullough and the things he's done in football," Dantonio said. "Then you look at Chuck and Shane and see what they've been able to accomplish here at Michigan State, and now you look at what Max has done.
"It speaks about toughness, consistency, leadership, tradition, all the things that put you in that foxhole - that type of mentality. I know he's a Spartan, he'll always be a Spartan and when he has children, I'm sure they'll be Spartans."
When Dennard came to MSU from Dry Branch, Ga., he tried to blend in with the background.
"I actually really didn't talk my freshman year," he said. "I was a very quiet guy and I really just kept to myself. For about the last couple of years, I've been coming out of my shell, talking to guys, helping them all with the stuff I've been through and coaching them on the little points."
Although Dennard, a former captain at Twiggs County High, said he always aspired to be a Michigan State captain, he was "still in shock over being chosen." Dantonio wasn't in the least, however.
"There's no one more competitive than Darqueze Dennard on our football team," Dantonio said. "You can challenge him to anything, and he's going to compete and he's going to let you know it, too."
Treadwell has been a part of Dantonio's life almost since birth. His father Don, now the head coach at Miami of Ohio, was an assistant coach along with Dantonio at Youngstown State in the late 1990s and MSU in the early 2000s and worked under him at Michigan State and Cincinnati. Dantonio was an assistant at Kansas when he first met Blake, who is also his godson.
"Tread came to visit me and Blake was in the back seat (of the car) with a (baby) bottle in his hand," Dantonio said. "He was about 2. So we go way back. I've seen Blake grow from an eighth-grader to a ninth-grader. I saw him come to camp at the University of Cincinnati and took a step back and told Don, `I think you've got a player there.'
"You've got a guy who's been here for five years. He's grown from an 18-year-old to a 22-year-old, so there's a big change. I'm very proud of Blake. He's more outspoken and he's taken a lot of ownership. He's not afraid to call a guy out when he needs to be called out and to assert himself. With that said, I think he's compassionate with his teammates, he's an extremely hard worker and he's tough."
Treadwell's message to the team was to stay hungry, and Dennard spelled it out in no uncertain terms.
"I basically just said we're going to take it one game at a time and continue to focus on that one game and keep pushing through the season," he said. "I definitely wanted (to be a captain). I wanted to be one of the faces of this team this year because I think, well, I don't think I know, we've a chance to go to Pasadena and I just wanted to be part of the team that led `em."