Sept. 16, 2009
By Bobby Busley, MSU Athletic Communications Student Assistant
Listed at 6-9 and 330 pounds, offensive tackle and fifth-year senior Mike Schmeding is the tallest player - by two inches - on the Spartan squad this season. His on-field presence, fully padded and emblazoned in that Spartan green jersey, rivals that of Sparty himself.
But aside from Schmeding's commanding physical presence is his command and understanding of the Michigan State football program and its growth over his career as a player.
As a fifth-year senior, Schmeding has witnessed the evolution of the program from a 10th-place Big Ten finisher during his freshman season to a legitimate conference threat which finished third in the Big Ten standings last season. Now, with the Spartans slated as contenders in the Big Ten in 2009, Schmeding can look back on his experiences and recognize the reasons why the Spartans are poised to tackle successes they have yet to achieve this decade.
Schmeding, a New Jersey native, came to East Lansing in the fall of 2005 as a lauded prospect from the East coast, having earned first team all-conference honors during his senior year of high school. While red-shirting his freshman year, Schmeding was able to acquaint himself with the Big Ten football atmosphere and with the big-time rivalries that accompany playing on a national stage and in a highly competitive conference. Prior to his arrival, the Michigan State and University of Michigan rivalry was practically unknown to Schmeding. But over his years in Spartan green, Schmeding - like all who attend class on this East Lansing campus and scream "Go Green!" on game day - has cemented himself as part of this intrastate rivalry.
"The rivalry is definitely something that I've learned, and it's with me now; I bleed green," Schmeding said.
After his first two years, Schmeding came back for summer camp in 2007 with a different attitude. The coaching staff - now led by Mark Dantonio - had a different philosophy toward the game.
"Changes in discipline and team chemistry came with the change in the coaching staff," Schmeding said. "Under Coach Dantonio and the new staff, there's respect from each player to the coaches and from coaches to players. I think that makes for a more comfortable situation as a player; if we have an issue with a coach we can go talk to them about it and they will tell us the truth.
"This program has now learned to finish - even during small cone drills during winter conditioning, putting in an extra five or 10 yards so we can finish through the cone, just simple things like that help."
Last season, Schmeding was a member of the offensive line corps which helped lead running back Javon Ringer to one of the most productive offensive seasons in school history. Ringer, always quick to give credit to his offensive line, garnered great respect from Schmeding and the linemen.
"Javon was a great running back, and playing for him was just an honor," Schmeding said. "There's going to be a lot of other great running backs who come through here also, but he set the standard for those guys."
As a human relations major, Schmeding knows team chemistry is a defining ingredient of success, and as an offensive lineman he sees that chemistry applied on a play-to-play basis on the line of scrimmage.
"I think that from an offensive line point of view chemistry is everything," Schmeding said. "Rocco [Cironi], [Joel] Nitchman, [Brendon] Moss, and I have been sticking together from the beginning and it has been unique in a way because we've been fighting together and going through the whole struggle together. It's paid off by going to two bowl games the past two years."
As a part of the offensive line corps, Schmeding and his fellow linemen will be integral to this season's success. As a lineman "you don't get all the glory and you don't get all the credit but you're out there busting your butt every single play," Schmeding said. "The pressure is on us to get the job done. It starts up front, as Coach D always says. Whether we win the game or not comes down to the offensive line and the defensive line."
Throughout his time as a Spartan, Schmeding has seen the program transform into a Big Ten contender, and hopes that this season will be his most memorable as a Spartan.
"Hopefully this season will be the highlight of my career," Schmeding said. "It's my senior year, I'm taking on leadership on the team and seeing how far we can lead this team, where we're going to end up. Looking back on it, I'd say that building up to my senior year was a journey, there were a lot of ups and downs, struggles and successes, but this year, this senior year is something special. Not only because you're a senior, but because you're up in front and you're leading the team."
This feature was originally published in the Sept. 12 edition of Michigan State Football Gameday Magazine.
GETTING TO KNOW Mike SchmedingMAJOR: Human Resources, Interdisciplinary Studies
FAVORITE PLACE ON CAMPUS: Football practice facility: "We have a players lounge, and this is home."
PRE-GAME SONG: Metallica's "Enter Sandman"
POST-GAME MEAL: Georgio's meatlover's pizza
FAVORITE TV SHOW: Family guy
FAVORITE CAR: 1986 Ford F-150: "It was old, it was rotted, but it ran like a beauty."
FAVORITE SPORT OTHER THAN FOOTBALL: Golf: "I love golf, but I just have to find clubs that are long enough. I have to bend down so far I end up missing the ball."
FAVORITE PRO FOOTBALL TEAM: New York Giants.