Sept. 19, 2007
By Josh Rattray, MSU Sports Information Intern
Senior defensive lineman Jonal Saint-Dic (pronounced: JOE-nal saint-DEEK) likes driving opposing quarterbacks into the Spartan Stadium turf. That became apparent when he sacked Bowling Green quarterback Tyler Sheehan three times and hurried him once more in MSU's 28-17 win last week. In the season opener on Sept. 1, Saint-Dic planted two fierce hits on UAB signal caller Sam Hunt, helping the Spartans to a 55-18 win. After two games this season, Saint-Dic is tied for the Big Ten lead in sacks.
"(Hitting the quarterback) is the bonecrusher," Saint-Dic said. "Quarterbacks are the leaders on both sides of the ball and you want to get a good hit on them and make them feel uncomfortable. Playing on the defensive line, you want to get sacks, but hitting or pressuring the quarterback is what helps the entire defense. It makes the linebackers better. It makes the DB's (defensive backs) better. The whole defense gets better."
It's strange to think that two years ago, Saint-Dic may not have had the opportunity to introduce an opposing quarterback to the natural grass surface at Spartan Stadium. The 6-1, 255-pound senior from has battled NCAA academic requirements, injuries and just about every other trial and tribulation that a student-athlete will face. All of this while only having a few years of football-playing experience. Yet, Saint-Dic has stayed the course, and is now poised for a successful senior season at Michigan State.
Coming out of Elizabeth High School in New Jersey, Saint-Dic was an athletic, talented prospect that the Michigan State coaching staff had been eyeing for quite a while. MSU offered Saint-Dic a scholarship and he accepted, but there was one snag - Saint-Dic had not qualified academically and would have to take the junior college detour to football stardom.
"No matter how good you are on the football field, you have to get it done in the classroom," Saint-Dic said. "There are a lot of good football players that never get a chance because their grades aren't good. If you want to play football, you have to get your academics straight."
Consequently, Saint-Dic had to put the Spartans on hold and attended Hudson Valley Community College in the fall of 2003. While at the Troy, N.Y., junior college, Saint-Dic did more than just get his academics straight - he also dominated on the football field, capturing second team NJCAA All-American honors and being named the No. 11 ranked defensive end in the country by Scout.com. Saint-Dic was the conference defensive player of the year and led Hudson Valley to a 16-6 mark in his two seasons.
In the classroom, Saint-Dic made great strides and earned an associate's degree in communications. Fortunately for Spartan fans, he was able to keep his commitment and come to East Lansing.
"Michigan State believed in me and supported me," Saint-Dic said. "Coming out of high school my grades weren't that high, but they stuck with me so that's why I wanted to come here. We have a great education staff here so we can play football and do well in the classroom."
However, once he enrolled at MSU in 2005, he once again ran into obstacles. After appearing in just one game, Saint-Dic suffered a groin injury that ended his season with seven contests left on the schedule. The NCAA granted him a medical redshirt, preserving another year of eligibility, but that wasn't enough to soothe his frustration of having to sit out the season after so much hard work in junior college.
"It was hard to sit because I knew that I could contribute," said Saint-Dic, who had a sack and forced fumble in his only appearance of the 2005 season against Illinois, a play that resulted in a safety. "I knew that I could help our team win. Any time an athlete is sitting on the sideline it's hard because you want to be out there."
Saint-Dic returned to the Spartan defense with a vengeance last year, playing in 11 games and starting four Big Ten Conference games. He made 23 tackles and collected two sacks, entrenching himself in the MSU defensive line rotation for good - something the Haitian-born former soccer player has wanted all along.
"I played everything as a kid," Saint-Dic said. "My father knew about soccer and baseball. I played basketball a lot. But in high school, I knew I should stick with football."
And that's a great thing for Spartan fans - but maybe not such a good thing for opposing quarterbacks.
Feature originally published in Spartan Sports Zone Magazine vs. Pittsburgh