J'Michael Deane: Persistence Pays Off
Oct. 21, 2010
By Michael Caples, MSU Athletic Communications Student Assistant
The first time J'Michael Deane ran through the Spartan Stadium tunnel, he needed some help from his teammates, in the form of a smack on the helmet.
"I think the most people I had at one of my games was like 400 people," the fifth-year senior offensive tackle said. "The first time I came out the tunnel and seeing thousands upon thousands of people cheering for us, it was like, astonishing. It was overwhelming...it was pretty cool.
"Basically I got hit in the head when I started slowing down. Somebody hit me in the head and I realized I had to get to the sidelines."
The shock of more than 70,000 people cheering them on is something new for every Spartan, but it was extra shocking for Deane, who grew up in Toronto, Ontario. Despite growing up in a country known primarily known for hockey, Deane found the sport he was destined for based off his struggles on the basketball court.
"I just went from sport to sport to sport," Deane said of his childhood search for the right sport. "I was playing basketball, and I always got fouled out because I was too rough. People said, `why don't you come out and play football?' So I went and tried it out, and I've loved it ever since."
Deane is the only current Spartan who did not grow up in the United States. Former coach John L. Smith and his staff discovered him during combine camps in Toronto. The offensive lineman, who was drafted by the Calgary Stampede of the Canadian Football League last year, said that besides an increased space between the two teams before each snap, there's not much of a difference between American and Canadian football.
"For a lineman in the trenches, it's basically that you've got that yard off the ball," Deane said. "Other than that, there's different rules, but as a lineman, the only thing that changed for me is how close everything is. Back home, you have that little yard burst at the line of scrimmage, now it's like, they're right there, they're right on the ball."
Adjusting off the field has been an enjoyable experience for the Spartan right tackle.
"I really had no real problem," Deane said of moving to East Lansing. "I thought it was pretty cool. I got a whole new start, meeting a whole new different culture of people. It's more or less the same, but I don't even know how to explain it. But I like the culture here, the atmosphere."
Deane credited former Spartan offensive tackle Jesse Miller for helping with the transition to college life in an American city.
"He was my host actually when they recruited me, and he showed me a great time," Deane said. "Since I've come up here, we've been best friends ever since. I guess basically having him around for the first three years, it helped me out a lot. He's a great friend, a great teacher, a great role model; he's helped me out a lot. I still hang out with him to this day."
One issue Deane did not have to deal with was parents trying to keep him home. Deane had a gigantic smile on his face as he described how his parents Art and Sheryl felt about their son moving to a different country for college.
"I'm the first person in my family to get a full-ride scholarship playing football in a Big Ten school," Deane said. "They were so proud. They haven't been happier. Every time I come home, it's just smiles, and they love coming out here to watch us play."
And Deane's parents were in attendance for the Spartans' season-opening win over Western Michigan to watch a significant milestone - Deane starting. Deane started one game last year, but this season, the offensive tackle position on the right side of the line was his to lose. The offensive lineman said that while he knew he had finally earned a starting spot, the reality didn't set in until he heard the announcement on the Spartan Stadium speaker system during warm-ups.
"It really didn't settle in until the first game, when I saw it on the big screen," Deane said. "They were saying `starting offensive lineman from Toronto, Canada, J-Michael Deane.' I was like `wow', that sent chills down my spine. I finally, at that moment, I finally made it."
Deane said that there was a time where he wondered if MSU was the right place for him. The fifth-year senior went through a position change (he started as a defensive lineman), a coaching change, and limited playing time the last three years. But the Toronto native said that he learned who was truly there for him during his rough times.
"There was a point where I was like, `am I good enough?'" Deane said. "I started wavering in confidence, and then I don't know, just basically having the support group that I have, my friends, my family, telling you to keep going, it's basically just handling adversity. We talk about handling adversity all the time...just keep on pushing, keep on fighting through. If you fight for what you want, you're going to get it eventually."
Deane pointed to offensive line coach Dan Roushar and the MSU coaching staff for keeping him motivated, and showing him they wanted to succeed.
"When you have a coach yelling at you, you know that he cares, that he's trying to push you to get you to earn that spot," Deane said. "After practice, if I've had a bad practice, he'll come up to me and say, `J'Michael, I see great things coming for you, you just need to be more consistent.' Just knowing that he cares and is pushing me to be better really helped a lot."
The yelling and screaming has paid off. Deane and the offensive line's protection has allowed the Spartan offense to average 473.2 yards per game, including 225.0 yards on the ground. But Deane doesn't take any credit himself, saying he is only part of one cohesive unit.
"I don't see myself as an individual anymore," Deane said. "I'm Chris McDonald, I'm John Stipek, I'm Joel Foreman, I'm D.J. Young. We're all one unit. I don't think as myself as J'Michael Deane anymore, I just feel that I'm a Michigan State offensive lineman."
GETTING TO KNOW J'Michael Deane
FAVORITE ATHLETE: "I don't have one...I just like watching the players go out there and compete and learn from them. I'm always watching what the offensive line is doing, I try to learn from what I'm seeing watching the line during Sunday games."
IF YOU COULD TRADE PLACES WITH ANYONE, WHO WOULD IT BE? "I really like my life right now. I don't think there's anything else I'd rather be doing. I'm playing Big Ten football, and I've still got a lot of things to discover."
FAVORITE SONG: Ludacris, "Get Out the Way"
FAVORITE MOVIE: "I really like zombie movies, so either Land of the Dead or Dawn of the Dead."
PREGAME RITUAL: "I don't really have one. I just come in, sit down, get dressed, hold my helmet, look at my helmet, and I chant in my head `dominate, dominate, dominate.'"
This feature was originally published in the Oct. 16 edition of Michigan State Football Gameday Magazine.
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