Oct. 16, 2008
QUARTERBACK BRIAN HOYER
Q. Brian, wanted to ask you, Coach Dantonio has called this a special football team and said the closeness of it starts with the seniors. He said you've been through a lot in four or five years and that you talk about that, about what you've been through. I just wondered if you could talk a little bit about what you do talk about, and is it to make sure that this team stays on track.
BRIAN HOYER: Yeah, definitely, the seniors here, the guys that redshirted and the four year guys, we've been through a lot of ups and downs, and to be at this point in this season right now where we've had some success, we're just trying to convey the message that it's been a lot of hard work. You can't get complacent and you've got to treat every week like it's the most important week.
And I look back two years ago when we were playing Ohio State in our stadium, there were more Ohio State fans in the second half left in the stadium than there were Michigan State fans. So we've had some rough times and I think, if anything, it's brought us all closer together.
Q. From the outside looking in, the program looked kind of like a high wire act under John L. (Smith) at times, and it looks like your feet don't even leave the ground under Dantonio. What's the difference?
BRIAN HOYER: I think when Coach Dantonio came in here, they really tried to establish toughness both physically and mentally. And now this team is definitely mentally tough. They put us through tough situations, through summer workouts and things like that, that are starting to translate on the field where there might be a time where, as the offense, the defense gives up a touchdown and you just have to keep fighting back, or as the defense, they have to come up with a big time stop when the game's on the line.
And those are the things that I think that mental toughness has really come into play with. And like you say, we're a stable team. We can handle the ups and downs, whereas before, if something went wrong, it was going down from there.
Q. Last year when you guys got ranked, you lost five of your next six. And I think a lot of people thought same old Michigan State. In the vein of what you just talked about, about not falling apart, if you did not fracture internally last year, why did you not? Because that has pretty much been Michigan State's personality.
BRIAN HOYER: I think we bought in and tried to take on that, I think we took on the personality of our coach. We bought into what he had to say, and you mentioned last year, we lost five of our next six. But we came up big with two big wins at the end of the season, and I think that's when we started to change people's minds. We also really changed our own mind, I think, then, and really bought in and saw what they were coaching and teaching us is really special and important.
So to be at this point this year, we've just kind of tried to take the approach where, the weeks before are gone and you've just got to move on and make every week that week at hand, make that task at hand the most important week and play every game like you're playing for that Big Ten championship.
Q. Is Javon (Ringer) kind of emblematic of the program? I mean, his career started out okay. He had some injuries. Now as a senior, he's having his best year. I wonder if like the spirit that you guys have to hold together and to believe in what Coach is teaching you, if you feel like Javon personifies that and if you have a leader on your team that guys look to because of what he does on the field. Can you speak as to whether Javon is that guy or would it be someone else?
BRIAN HOYER: I think the thing with Javon, he's a quiet guy. If anything, he's a leader by example. And I guess his career kind of has matched this program whereas he came in, played well as a true freshman, and got hurt the next year. But he's always been the guy that's battled back and has worked hard.
And I think you mentioned before that Coach Dantonio said it's something that really starts with our seniors. Well, we've been through a lot. Javon has been through a lot. We've had some tough times here, and it's brought us all closer together.
This is the closest as a team that I've been around ever, really. People will care for each other, people are playing for each other and I think that's what the personality of our team is, we care for one another. We're out there playing for one another. And Javon's a perfect example of that because he's a selfless guy, and he'll do anything he can to help this team win.
Q. What's the most impressive thing about Javon?
BRIAN HOYER: The most impressive thing about him is his attitude. For a guy who gets as much hype as he does and for as good of a player he is, he's even a better person. If you met the guy and didn't know he was a Heisman candidate, you wouldn't be able to tell because he's very selfless, very humble. I think that's his best quality. That's what I admire about him most to be in that situation that he's in, he always gives praise to his teammates, to his offensive line.
It's never about him. It's about everybody else. And I think that's his best character trait.
Q. With the number of carries that he gets, does it seem like he's indestructible?
BRIAN HOYER: Javon is a special person. I mentioned his character, but physically he's gifted. I'm sure he would tell you that he's been blessed by God, because he really is a special type of player, because to take on that load and, you know, he never complains.
And, he's willing to do anything it takes to win. And it seems like he always gets stronger as the game goes on. So the more carries he's getting, the stronger he gets.
Q. Coach Dantonio hasn't been afraid to talk about whether it's the Michigan rivalry or whatever. Did he talk to you guys at all about the fact that the program in Septembers has been good, Octobers haven't and you need to change that? Did he talk about the history and going back and what needs to change going forward?
BRIAN HOYER: I don't think he's really touched on that. I think if anything he's touched on the importance of this game. This is a huge game. We're not going to try to downplay it. Let's call it what it is. This is a huge game for our program and a chance to play a great team like Ohio State in our home stadium with us being on a six game winning streak. It's a huge game. I think that's more what he's touched on and really not try to downplay it.
Because call it what it is. It's a big opportunity and something that we're excited for.
Q. As players, how much does that bother you just the reputation every time Michigan State is 5 0 everyone waits for it to fall apart?
BRIAN HOYER: I don't think it bothers us anymore. We care about what our own opinions are. We're not going to let outside sources affect us. Coach Dantonio, I think he said at (preseason) camp to ignore the outside noise. Worry about what you have to do.
I think we're here to change that. We're here to change that attitude. And I think we've done a good job of it. We've just got to continue. And we have to win. Like I said before, we're treating every week like it's the most important week and the most important game.
Q. I know there are some guys on your team that were looked at by Ohio State. Did you have any talk with them or were they a team that was interested in you at all?
BRIAN HOYER: Yeah, I was recruited by Ohio State, but for me I know a lot of people grow up in Ohio being die hard Ohio State fans. I was never really a college football fan to begin with. I grew up in Cleveland. I was a Browns fan, and I was a baseball fan.
By the time I committed to Michigan State, I hadn't had an offer from them yet and I kind of wanted to get done through with the recruiting process and focus on my senior year of football. I visited there a couple times and went to a couple games but by the time I committed here, I didn't have an offer from them yet.
Q. I think I heard there's some rivalry between Michigan guys and Ohio guys. Can you talk about that?
BRIAN HOYER: Yes, there's definitely. Even though we're from Ohio, we have a lot of pride for the type of high school players and competition in Ohio. So we tell the Michigan guys all the time that Michigan high school football really can't compare to Ohio football.
And it's an inside battle. And it's just something fun to joke around with in the locker room.
Q. Ohio State's defense, you faced essentially the same team last year, minus Vernon Gholston now. They don't appear to be getting nearly the same pressure on quarterbacks or playing as well as they were a year ago. I wonder what you see when you look at them and what difference you notice?
BRIAN HOYER: You mentioned before that really the only guy that's missing is Gholston. And you watch them on field, they're still very active. I think the thing about them is they're very smart and they're very fast. You see (James) Laurinaitis knows when to check out the blitzes and things like that. And I think their speed is what gets the people.
Speed can't really get around max protection, pass protection. I've seen a lot of that on film. Sometimes that can help you out. But I still see them getting to the quarterback and flying to the ball and they're still very active.
Q. I read today, Brian, that Coach Dantonio gets testy when people characterize you as perhaps the weak link on the Michigan State offense. I wonder how you feel about that and whether you've heard that, whether it used to bother you, if it does not bother you anymore, why it doesn't bother you, that kind of thing?
BRIAN HOYER: Like I said before, I don't listen to outside sources. I don't read the paper, and I don't watch TV. I'm worried about my teammates' and coaches' opinions. I can't complain. We're 6 1. I don't know when the last time Michigan State was 6 1. So that's an accomplishment right there.
With a running back like Javon (Ringer), we can hand the ball off and be successful. But when we need to throw like we did last week, there were several key completions that we had in the passing game that we needed and two touchdown passes. I'm a veteran quarterback. I'm a senior quarterback. I've been there before. I've done it. I don't have any lack of faith in myself.
RUNNING BACK JAVON RINGER
Q. The last time I saw you was when you were at Chaminade in Dayton, and we came over and did a radio broadcast over there. That was before your knee injury. You've had a couple of knee injuries in your career. Obviously, things worked out for you going to Michigan State. I wonder, are you the kind of guy that never gets down or are you the kind of guy that really had to overcome the mental battle of being injured and you had such success early in your career then you had the knee injury? Are you always up or did you battle through that kind of stuff mentally?
JAVON RINGER: I definitely had to battle through that one. Definitely. When I first tore my ACL in high school, it was a very hard blow to me. I took that hard, especially knowing how important my legs are to me. And I've never really seriously been hurt before that.
So when that happened, that really took a toll on me. I really have to give credit to my family for helping to overcome that. And I have a religious family, and I feel like I've been really blessed. And I just had to keep having faith. God was just going to help me in my preparation on getting back, and just me believing that everything happens for a reason.
But, yeah, that was definitely something I had to overcome then, and again in college when I tore my MCL. That was on the exact same knee. So that really hit me hard, too. I just thank God I was able to continue to just work hard and stay motivated and come back from both injuries.
Q. Were you ever afraid you were done?
JAVON RINGER: No, that never got into my head. It was just more of me just knowing that this is just another setback that I have to overcome in order for me to be successful. That was the only thing I was just really frustrated with.
Q. You've obviously gotten a ton of carries. Is there ever a point where you feel like maybe it would be best to back off a little bit on the carries? Or for you is it getting the ball every down?
JAVON RINGER: I'm never going to tell them not to give me the ball. I'm thankful that Coach D (Dantonio) trusts me with the ball in my hands. I thank him a lot for that.
I guess realistically the only time I'm thinking this is getting ridiculous, is when everybody is down in the box and it's almost impossible to run. We just need to pass because we are a very balanced offense. We can't become one dimensional. We have to be able to run and pass.
There are those times when I feel like, okay, we need to pass because we're having a hard time running the ball. But that's very rare. My offensive line does a tremendous job no matter how many people are down there.
Q. But it's not a case where you're like tired or just . . .
JAVON RINGER: Oh, never. There's never a case to where I'm tired or just a little winded or I'm tired of just getting banged on or hit. No, it's never been a case like that. I love just competing, having everybody trying to tackle me and trying to hit me. I love that.
Q. I know being an Ohio guy and Ohio State was real high on your list and it didn't work out back then, but I wonder what kind of emotions you have going into this game and facing these guys?
JAVON RINGER: There's a lot of emotion. I'm friends with a lot of people on that team. So that's one thing right there. And then knowing just how big of an opponent they are, how well respected they are around the country and how good they are.
As long as I've been here, we've never had this much success leading up to this game. This game has never really been as important as it is now. And I don't want to go through my whole college career saying I've never been able to beat an opponent. And Ohio State is definitely up there on that list. This game is just very important to me personally, to a lot of my other teammates, and our program. This is, I guess you could say, a must win game for us.
Q. I was wondering, of the guys you know on Ohio State, is Beanie Wells one of them? Do you know Beanie at all?
JAVON RINGER: I do know Beanie.
Q. What's your relationship like? Seems like a lot of people talk about you as a leader. I know that he's kind of filled a similar role with Ohio State.
JAVON RINGER: Well, I know him. The first time I met him was at an Ohio State camp. I think I was a junior, and I believe he was a sophomore. We just got to know each other then. We've kept in touch, but we're not like best friends. I don't see him all the time. But we always speak to each other after the games and everything.
So we have a pretty cool relationship. I really admire him as just a pure athlete and a running back. He's one of the best running backs in the country, one of the best running backs in the college football right now. I learn a lot from just watching him, just picking up on his running style. He's just a tremendous all around running back.
Q. I know he's got a few pounds on you, but are there any similarities with your styles or anything that you do that maybe he does that's similar or different?
JAVON RINGER: I know one thing: we both run with determination. We both run like we've got something to prove every time the ball is in our hands. And we never want to let the first one or two defenders bring us down. If we're going to get tackled, it has to be a gang tackle. I know there's some similarity.
Q. A lot of people talk about the mental toughness aspect that you guys have now. Is there anything that Coach Dantonio has done to emphasize that or it seems like you guys aren't just a team now that will start fast and then fade. There's kind of a sustained success now.
JAVON RINGER: He hasn't really necessarily done anything too much different than what he's been doing since he first got here last year. He's just really good at making sure that we all come out every game with confidence.
He makes sure we all have a good game plan. He makes sure we're all hungry and just we have a lot of confidence in ourselves and knowing that we can come out and beat anybody, anybody who we play. So a lot is just the confidence level that he and our coaching staff have really put into us.
When you're confident, there's so much you can achieve on that field. And thank God, they've been able to just make sure we stay motivated and stay hungry and just believe in ourselves every game.
Q. You talked about the importance of not going through your career without beating certain teams. Was it important to not be that team that starts fast and that fades every October? I know a lot of people think about that when they think of Michigan State.
JAVON RINGER: No, that's just been kind of the whole thing since I've been here, just being able to change that and just being able to help start a whole new foundation with Michigan State football. I feel real honored I've been able to start that, just being able to be part of the change. And last year, we provided the first couple of building blocks. Now we're just adding onto it with this year. So that's something that we need to be able to change, that we can still come out and play hard in October.
Q. Did it seem like it was on your radar preseason that you could be the nation's leading scorer or possibly the nation's leading rusher? I think you're No. 2 going into this week.
JAVON RINGER: On my radar, not really. I guess at the beginning of the year my whole focus was . . . I knew I was going to be getting a lot of carries. I didn't think it was going to be this many. But I just knew that I wanted to make sure I came out every week with the right mind set to work hard for my teammates and be able to just do everything I needed to do for this program to be successful.
Q. Two quick things. I think they tie together. Everyone I've talked to about you raves about your humility. Where does that come from? And the other part of that is, I hear that you want no part of any kind of Heisman talk?
JAVON RINGER: A lot of it comes just from my family, especially my mother and my father. I feel they did a tremendous job in raising me. They make sure that I have a religious family, so they make sure that I understand that nothing that I'm able to do is without God's help. I feel like I'm a really blessed person, and I owe every ounce, every little piece of success that I've been able to have throughout my entire life, I always give credit to God, because without him I am absolutely nothing.
And the Heisman talk, it's not really something I'm concerned about. My mind set is just continuing to come out every week and win every single game and just making sure that I just continue to do what I need to do for my teammates. If I win, I'll be thankful. But it's not something that's on my mind right now.
Q. Were you always humble by nature or was it something you had to learn at some point?
JAVON RINGER: No, it wasn't something I had to learn. I guess I've always been kind of that way. I know I've been that way since I was little. I've never been the one who just needed all the attention. And I always understood that I'm not doing any of this by myself, speaking from my standpoint as a running back.
Number one, I have to give credit to God just for blessing me first and foremost with the talent. And I have to give credit to my offensive line. I wouldn't be able to do a thing, no one would be able to do a thing without an offensive line. So I just know that I'm not able to do any of this by myself.
Q. There's always a debate as to whether the Michigan or the Ohio State game is a bigger game for Michigan State. To you, which is the bigger game?
JAVON RINGER: To me what is a bigger game between Michigan and Ohio State? Yeah, I'm going to have to go with the Michigan game. Michigan, definitely. It's not necessarily more important, but, I mean, that's just a rivalry. Nothing can really compare the two I guess you could say.
Q. Do you ever think through these last three or four years what would it have been like if things had worked out at Ohio State and you had landed there?
JAVON RINGER: No, I haven't really thought about it too much. My freshman year, just because it was my first year, I thought about it a little bit, but it's not something that I've really dwelt on.
I'm on a good team. We're really successful right now, and I feel like I'm here for a reason. I've met some great people here. And I've developed friendships that are amazing here, and I'm just really happy with my decision. So I don't really give it too much thought.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE JUSTIN KERSHAW
Q. I'll ask you the same question I asked earlier. Coach Dantonio has called this a special football team and said that the closeness of it starts with the seniors. He said you guys have been through a lot in four years and that you talk about that all the time. Just talk about maybe briefly what you've been through in the four years that you're trying to use with this team to make sure this year doesn't turn out like some of the others.
JUSTIN KERSHAW: Yeah, I think we do have a special football team and the seniors have been through a lot together. (Offensive tackle) Jesse Miller and I, we talk about it all the time. We went through a coaching change, and we thought that was tough.
And we went through a lot of ups and downs as a team. I won't say we lacked in leadership, but sometimes we were on our own in the past. And I think those close games that we lost last year and other games that we were in really helped us out.
But another thing I think that's real special, you have guys on this team that have stepped it up and really helped with the success. Guys like (cornerback) Jeremy Ware and (safety) Danny Fortener, who weren't starters at the beginning of the season, but they've come in and stepped it up. And people know their role on this team and they've done a good job in doing that.
Q. As I looked at the Big Ten stats today when the release came out, you guys are not ranked real high in terms of yards. But you're forcing a lot of turnovers, which, obviously, is helping you. Why the turnovers? Is it the pressure up front or what?
JUSTIN KERSHAW: I think it has something to do with it. And I think it's just guys in the back doing their job and really taking it upon themselves to get better. And I think one thing that's helped us this year is we've bent some but we haven't broken in the red zone, we've really toughed up in that. I think a lot has to do with how our defensive coordinator coaches us and especially our position coach, Coach (Ted) Gill, he's really tried to show us how to play good red zone defense. And I think it's helped us out a lot.
Q. Do you have more guys that rotate through the front this year and has that helped you individually as well as the defense in general?
JUSTIN KERSHAW: Yes, we do. At defensive end, Dwayne Holmes has played a lot, the most he's played in two years and he's been doing a good job. Colin Neely, Brandon Long and Trevor Anderson are playing good. And inside, Kevin Pickelman is doing a good job and so is Michael Jordan, the fake Michael Jordan, he's doing a good job. And I think that's really helped us out as a defensive line, as a unit.
Q. The fake Michael Jordan?
Q. I saw where you, I guess, put on 20 pounds after last season. Even though the trend seems to be toward lighter linemen against these spread offenses, did you need that weight to hold up inside or what, and how much do you weigh right now?
JUSTIN KERSHAW: Yeah, I'm still somewhat light to play defensive tackle. Last year, I was really light to play defensive tackle, but I'm about 275 now, and I just think it helps with the wear and tear of the season. I feel better playing with the extra weight. I feel like I got stronger. It wasn't bad weight. But I thought I needed to do that in the off season if I was going to continue to play inside.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about the rivalry some of the Ohio guys and Michigan guys have on the team and what some of the back and forth might be?
JUSTIN KERSHAW: Well, I think that rivalry is just guys talking junk about what state has the best high school teams in terms of Michigan and Ohio.
But every guy on this team that's from Ohio is a Spartan and we're all happy to be here.
Q. One other thing about that question there. Dantonio said today that obviously the Ohio guys on the team have a certain edge this week. Everybody from Ohio that knows you play for Michigan State is going to be watching you, and you know that.
JUSTIN KERSHAW: Right.
Q. Can you put that into words about what it feels like and especially it's your last chance, and like Javon (Ringer) said you've finally got a team that's good enough . . . you could win this week?
JUSTIN KERSHAW: Yeah, it's special for a lot of reasons. Number one, we've put ourselves in a good position to compete for the Big Ten (championship). And Ohio State's been the best team in the Big Ten the past couple of years.
So we know that we can compete and we can win this game. And I think that's special. But for the guys from Ohio, it's a special game because we all know people from Ohio and people that follow Ohio State football, so we know they're going to be watching.
And it's just going to be a special day for the first reason I said because you know family and friends and people back at home are watching and they can be rooting for you or against you, but, you know, it's always good to play your home state team.
And just like guys from Florida when we went down for the bowl game, they got to play in front of their family. We know that there are going to be people up here from Ohio State, so it's going to be special.
Q. You're one of the captains. Wondered if the players voted on that or does the coach appoint the captains? And just your reaction when you got named. I don't know if you were surprised or what.
JUSTIN KERSHAW: We get voted by our teammates. I think the coaches have a vote, too. And it was an honor for me because I was voted by my teammates. I aspire to lead in my life, and I'm glad they voted me as captain.
But the seniors on this team have been leading this team, not just the captains. Javon (Ringer), (Brian) Hoyer, Otis (Wiley) and I have been chosen to be the captains, and I think we've all done a good job thus far leading this team.
LINEBACKER GREG JONES
Q. I was interested with Justin being from Columbus here. I just talked to him about being named a captain. He said really all the seniors are doing a good job of leading this team. What about him, I guess, earned him his teammates' vote to be captain?
GREG JONES: Justin just has natural leadership to me - the ability to say the right thing at the right time. You can't be a leader without knowing how to do that sometimes.
He also leads by his dedication on the field. All season, he has put in a lot of hard work and a lot of hard hours. I think people saw that he was always out there just promoting the team and he was doing a great job. He puts a lot of time and effort into what he does.
Q. Any one thing that he says that gets your attention or any one thing that he does?
GREG JONES: No. When I came in as a freshman, he was one of the guys who always helped me out. He's the guy I could always depend on for small things. No, it wasn't just one thing; it was just him being himself. Whenever he was around me, he just really treated me like a teammate. As a freshman, he didn't make me feel like I was an outcast.
Q. Dantonio said today that this game is a little bit more special for the guys from Ohio for whatever reason. He said in some cases it might be a situation where Ohio State didn't show you any attention in high school. What was your particular situation regarding recruiting and just talk about how you're approaching this game this weekend?
GREG JONES: Well, recruiting, I was committed to Minnesota all the way. Ohio State didn't really pay any attention to me and that was fine. There are no hard feelings or whatever.
I'm just getting ready for the game by taking it one step at a time. I'm putting in the hours, watching film, and really listening to my coaches in practice. The real key is being focused.
Q. Do you hear from more people from home this week than other weeks?
GREG JONES: Not so much. The biggest thing coming up on Saturday is it's my dad's birthday. I love him a lot. Off the field, I think that's the biggest thing this weekend.
Q. Have you promised him a nice present on Saturday?
GREG JONES: No, I didn't promise him anything. He's my dad, and he loves me the most. No matter what happens (Saturday), he's behind me. If anything, he just wants me to play my best. So that's all I can promise him, is to do my best.
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