Through the Eyes of Javon Ringer
Feature originally published in the Sept. 20 edition of Michigan State Football Gameday Magazine vs. Notre Dame.
Sept. 21, 2008
The numbers and accolades speak for themselves.
The nation's leader in rushing touchdowns and scoring. First in the Big Ten in rushing and all-purpose yards. The fourth-best performance on the ground in MSU history with 282 yards against Florida Atlantic. A career-high five touchdowns vs. Eastern Michigan. Over 3,000 career rushing yards. He's even outgained an entire team in one game. And he's a nominee for three prominent national awards including the Maxwell Award, the Doak Walker Award and the Walter Camp Player of the Year.
The list is endless. It can almost make you as dizzy as a defender trying to tackle him in the open field.
But for anyone who has met Javon Ringer, Michigan State's electric senior running back, the first thing that comes to mind isn't statistics or records. It's him. For who he is, and what he does. Whether it's being a motivator on the field, a leader at a team meeting, or a role model in the community, Javon is the same grounded, humble individual who has an aura of self-confidence that guides him everyday. He sees it as the only way he's ever known.
"I was brought up knowing you can't do anything truly by yourself," Ringer said. "It's God blessing you in some way, shape or form. I have a religious family (his parents, Eugene and Darlene, are both ordained Pentecostal ministers), and that's just how I was raised. Being a running back, it's also very obvious to me. Any running back that's ever played football, all of the success comes from the people up front. There's no way a running back can be good if nobody is blocking for him."
Javon is one of a rare breed of individuals who can take pressure and spin it into a challenge. He simply doesn't feel its presence. It's a waste of time anyway - there's too much to life to worry about what's next.
"I just take one day at a time, pray, and know that whatever happens is God's will, so there's nothing I can do to change that," said Ringer, who has been asked to shoulder a majority of the workload for MSU's offense this season after becoming the first Spartan to rush for 1,000 yards in six years with 1,447 yards as a junior.
"Javon is an extremely talented player, but what makes him an outstanding player and what sets him apart are the intangibles," Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said. "It's the toughness, the attention to detail, the work ethic, and the tenacity. He is completely unselfish and has confidence in himself and his teammates."
Through three games, Ringer is nearly halfway toward his second straight 1,000-yard season with 498 yards (166.0 avg.). He already has 104 carries, including 43 against Florida Atlantic, which were the fifth-most ever by a Spartan running back and the most by a player in college football this season. His performance against the Owls was one for the record books, as Eric Allen and Lorenzo White are the only other Spartans to have rushed for more yards in a game than Ringer's 282 last Saturday. And it came in a torrential downpour the entire game.
As Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger described it, "when they (the Spartan offensive line) all came off at one time, they looked like a herd of water buffalo stampeding at you, and then there's a gazelle somewhere behind them. He's very good, persistent, and you can see how strong he is."
"I thank God that my body has been able to handle this kind of workload," Ringer said. "I don't know if I will ever be like Lorenzo White, but that's the goal I'm trying to get to."
All this talk of abundant carries is without mentioning the fact that Ringer is also returning kicks this season. The ability to maintain his stamina speaks to his outstanding physical condition. Standing 5-foot-9 at 202 pounds, Ringer's physique is solid Spartan, but it's his legs that provide the horsepower - he can squat 620 pounds - making it an arduous task to take him down.
"He's a freak - he never gets tired," said quarterback Brian Hoyer on Ringer.
Although he says he can't do anything by himself, Ringer - who was voted one of four captains by his teammates - continues to receive nothing but admiration from his peers.
"When you put the ball in his hands there is no telling what is going to happen - sometimes I am just amazed watching what he can do even though I am playing on the same field he is," sophomore wide receiver Mark Dell said.
"It's really something to block for him," said starting left tackle Rocco Cironi, whose offensive line unit has even received Hallmark cards from Ringer after a good performance. "Even if he has just a little space, he's gone. His quickness is unbelievable, and the plays he makes are just fun to watch. It makes me want to work harder for him because he gives everything he has, and always leaves everything out on the field."
The show, however, doesn't end after the game. In fact, it's really just the beginning. For three hours every week, his exceptional athletic talent is on public display, the field serving as his stage. But three hours a week doesn't define Javon. It's merely an ongoing part of who he is. Another is his time in the community, giving back to the fans and the kids who so proudly adorn his No. 23 jersey on game day at Spartan Stadium.
One of the most active student-athletes in MSU's Multicultural Program, Ringer has participated in numerous events, including the Gear Up College Day Program in which he served as a counselor to help advise middle school children, and the Academic Gladiators program where he expressed the importance of academics to other student-athletes. His vibrant attitude has inspired children at hospitals and the MSU Child Development Lab, while his positive coaching skills at camps and clinics have made him a mentor to young football players.
"Every time I've done something in the community, each of the people that I've met, they're an inspiration to me," Ringer said. "Their spirits are so high. What I'm going through on the field is nothing compared to what they're going through. Their issue is a matter of life and death. Just being able to put one moment of happiness in their life, that's something that I really cherish doing."
Just last week, that spirit was on display when he helped shoot a PSA after practice with two local teenagers who have bone cancer - Brandon Gordon and James Stanley - to help raise money for cancer research. Prior to the filming, Brandon made it out to the practice fields, and Ringer instantly ran over to greet him. The effect of the afternoon would not go unnoticed for James either - later that evening, he had to go in for chemotherapy, and wound up having one of the best rounds of chemo he's ever had.
"He was in and out, and I know it was because he had such a good time with those guys that day," said James' mother, Annette. "That helped him get through it."
"Javon's definitely a go-to guy as far as helping out in the community," said Angela Howard, the Director of Student-Athlete Development. "He's not seeking the attention. Everything he does is for the right reasons, and he's willing to take the time, which he doesn't have a lot of. He's not doing it because I'm telling him he has to go out, or because he's the face of Michigan State football. When he's out there, he's doing it because he believes in doing it."
The Javon Ringer Show is gathering steam with each passing game. What Michigan State has known since his arrival on campus in 2005, the nation is now seeing on highlight reels with regularity on Saturday nights. But Javon's focus remains the same. He will continue to praise his teammates. He will continue to be a fixture in the community. And he will continue to lead with a quiet, steady demeanor that signifies dignity in all aspects of his life.
By Ben Phlegar, MSU Athletic Communications