Oct. 8, 2008
By Jessica Taylor, MSU Athletic Communications Student Assistant
We are all taught at a young age that no dream is ever too big if we are willing to put in the work to accomplish it.
While most of us were dreaming of becoming lawyers, firefighters and teachers, senior offensive lineman Mike Bacon was brewing up a dream of his own - to be a Michigan State Spartan. Not only did he aspire to attend MSU as a student, he wanted something beyond that. He had a dream to become a Spartan football player.
In order to fulfill our dreams and turn them into a reality, some of us must create a path of our own to achieve success and those paths are not always the easiest. Upon graduation from Lansing Catholic Central, Bacon only received a few offers to Division II schools as a walk-on. He faced a tough decision between taking what was being handed to him, or going after what he truly wanted. Bacon made a bold move that not many people have the courage to do; he took a chance and decided to try out for Michigan State's football team. Knowing he had a lot to prove, Bacon was determined that hard work would get him to where he wanted to go.
"I had a `never-quit' attitude," Bacon said. "There were definitely some hard times my freshman year. I came in at 236 pounds and pretty much got thrown around. The strength coaches helped me a lot and I got a lot of help from my friends and family just telling me to keep on going. So I did, and it paid off."
After years of hard practice and making overall improvements to his play, head Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio gave Bacon news that would change the rest of his football career. He was told that his walk-on days were over and he was now a scholarship athlete.
"He earned every bit of that," Dantonio said of Bacon. "This was one of those cases where he had to work for it. Some guys come here on scholarship, and they don't have to prove anything because they are on scholarship. Then there are other guys that come as non-scholarship players and they have to prove that they can play at this level before they ever get one and it is very, very difficult to do that. Mike has done an outstanding job. I can't say enough about him. He is an excellent student and a great person."
Not only has Bacon earned outstanding accolades from Coach Dantonio, but teammates also praise his hard work and accomplishments.
"Ever since I've gotten here, he has improved," center Joel Nitchman said of his fellow teammate and friend. "The big story is that he came here as a walk-on and every year he has gotten smarter, bigger, stronger and faster. It has been really cool to watch him and I'm glad he is really getting a shot this year."
Having parents that previously attended Michigan State, Bacon grew up a true green-blooded Spartan. Being a Lansing native also played a substantial role in his motivations to play for this particular Big Ten University.
"I've always been a huge Spartan fan and to be able to play for a team I grew up watching and loving has been an amazing experience," Bacon said.
As Mike Bacon embarks upon his last football season at MSU, he has done something some of us may never get the opportunity to do. Not only has he achieved his dream, he accomplished something above and beyond what he even thought possible. After appearing in two games as a sophomore, Bacon saw action in seven games last season to earn his first letter, including a start at left guard at No. 9 Wisconsin. This season, he is a regular in the rotation at left guard, helping block for the Big Ten's leading rusher in Javon Ringer.
"It has been a long road, but to be a senior now and to be a part of this team, it really just feels great," he said.
Bacon has hopes that future walk-ons aren't discouraged by the often challenging paths that lie ahead of them as the rewards of such challenges are well worth the extra effort.
"Just give it a shot," said Bacon. "I'm glad I did, and I didn't quit because I know I would be kicking myself always wondering `what if?' It does take a lot, but it's definitely worth it. Playing here really has been a dream come true."
No one knows better than Bacon that the saying our parents were always telling us contains some validity - hard work really does pay off.
This feature was originally published in the Oct. 4 edition of Michigan State Football Gameday Magazine.