Nov. 6, 2013
By Aimee Dulebohn, MSU Athletic Communications Intern
Bennie Fowler has been a part of many successful seasons for the MSU football team. The Spartan receiver has helped MSU to a Big Ten Championship run, back-to-back 11-win seasons and is en route to an exciting final season as Michigan State is 8-1 on the season with an undefeated Big Ten record.
However, many may not know that Fowler's football highlight-reel career is a story that might have never been told. The lifelong basketball player had equal success as a shooting guard for his state-championship winning high school, Country Day. But his mother felt his skills were too swift to be limited to the confines of the hardwood.
"I love football, but I didn't start playing high school ball until my junior year," said Fowler. "I played little league when I was eight to about 10, but then I stopped to play basketball. My mom made me go out for the football team in high school my junior year and then I got a scholarship. She said I had too much speed on the basketball court, saying `you're not even getting up to full speed, you need to go out there and play.' It just took off from there."
His family has without a doubt played a major influence on his Spartan career. A native of Bloomfield, Mich., Fowler came to MSU so that his nearby family could come to every game and watch him play. The familiar values he was used to also set Michigan State apart from other schools.
"One of the reasons I came here is because of the family atmosphere," Fowler said. "Coach D harped on a lot of things my parents used to harp on, like discipline, being family-oriented and getting an education."
Fowler has challenged himself on the field and in the classroom as an economics major. Keeping his eyes on the prize, he will be sure to have success once he hangs up his cleats for good.
"Football doesn't last forever, so you have to get your degree," said Fowler. "That's what I hold on to. I always hear from my parents, that you always have to have a backup plan. I plan on going to the NFL, but if that doesn't work, I have a backup plan with my degree in economics. I wanted a general business background degree and I want to do something with sports; I feel like I have a good understanding of the game, so maybe a general manager."
However, once his time in uniform does come to an end, Fowler will leave with much more than just a winning record as a Spartan.
"I've got a hundred best friends on this team, so that's how I look at it," said Fowler. "I've hung out off the field with pretty much every person on the team. I'm a people-person, so they are all like my brothers. I'm always going to be able to have close friends from here."
The Spartan playmaker has had many memorable moments in the green and white. Though he enjoys any opportunity to be with his teammates, he has always preferred to be on the offensive line of scrimmage.
"We get a lot of the glory," Fowler said. "We get to catch the ball and we don't get hit that often. I just enjoy being on offense and playing with the people that I've played with. I've played with a lot of people that have been in the NFL, like Kirk (Cousins), B.J. (Cunningham) and Keshawn (Martin). I've always like the offense. I never liked to hit for no reason; I liked to have the ball."
But as many know, glory is not always gold. Fowler has experienced his share of ups and downs, but he can recount countless plays that have made him essential to Michigan State's success throughout his career.
"I've had a lot of good memories," said Fowler. "Probably the most from the 2010 season; we had a lot of great memories, like `Little Giants' and my play against Northwestern in the `Mousetrap' game when I scored my first touchdown. In that game, we were down 17 points. Late in the game, it was fourth down, we faked a punt and they threw it to me. That was my first game playing a lot."
The admitted "fun-loving" fifth-year senior has amassed a lot of knowledge to pass on to the next generation of Spartans. His most valuable lesson came from advice that he received as he was trying to make a name for himself.
"I just tell them to keep a positive mindset, because you're going to have your ups and downs playing football," said Fowler. "You're going to go through some adversity, so you just have to stay positive and understand the game. If you understand the offense, you can put yourself in at any position and can give the coaches a reason to play you.
"My knowledge of the offense is probably the reason I played early here, because I knew multiple positions. So when Keshawn (Martin) went down my red-shirt freshman year, I was able to go in even though I was playing a different position. That's something that Blair White and Mark Dell taught me. They said to be able to plug yourself in anywhere, that way you can play right away."
Fowler has made the most of his time as a Spartan. Most recently, Fowler was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time in the dominating 42-3 victory at Illinois. As the ball bounced into his hands on a tipped pass, he fell into the end zone for his team-leading fourth touchdown catch of the season, helping the Spartans move into the top-25 rankings. It was one of many clutch plays the senior has made for Michigan State. Lucky for him and the Spartan nation, he listened to his mother's clutch advice and solidified his future on the field.
Getting to Know Bennie Fowler:
If a movie was made about your life, who would you want to play your role...
"I look forward to Friday nights in the Kellogg Center. I could eat that meal everyday. I usually get mashed potatoes and gravy, asparagus, grilled chicken, teriyaki salmon every time. Then desert, peach cobbler."
"My younger brother Chris; he's my hero. He's 20 years old and he plays basketball; he's the starting point guard at Central Michigan. He tore his ACL three times, and he was able to still get a scholarship."
Favorite class at MSU...
"The Economics of Sport was a really good class. It was very interesting understanding how much money goes into sports and understanding what the owners have to do, how salaries work and concessions. I learned a lot in that class."
This feature was originally published in the Nov. 2 edition of Michigan State Football Gameday Magazine.