Nov. 8, 2010
By Brittany McCormick, MSU Athletic Communications Student Assistant
For every game the past three seasons - 36 and counting - senior Charlie Gantt has lined up as the starting tight end for the Spartans.
His list of accolades, along with his statistics, are impressive. Gantt has been named to the John Mackey Award Midseason Watch List, which is awarded to the nation's top tight end, is ranked as the No. 14 tight end in the nation by Rivals.com, and is listed the No. 7 tight end prospect for the 2011 NFL Draft by CollegeFootballNews.com. He has caught 56 receptions for 845 yards and eight touchdowns, including a career-best four catches at Iowa.
But Gantt will forever be remembered for his game-winning touchdown reception on a fake field goal against Notre Dame in overtime on Sept. 18.
"That game was just exhilarating. When I saw that ball coming, my eyes got really big. Sometimes I think, `what if I dropped that ball?' I probably wouldn't want to leave my apartment after that," he joked. "I am just so thankful I caught that ball and we won that game."
Replays of Gantt's 29-yard reception from senior punter Aaron Bates on the infamous "Little Giants" play have been shown countless times around the nation. It has been labeled by many as the "Play of the Year" in college football for the 2010 season.
Gantt, however, has been making an impact on the field for Michigan State not only this fall, but since his sophomore year in 2008. In that breakout season, the Farmington Hills, Mich., native started all 13 games and led the team with four touchdown receptions. He was an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection by the coaches and media and was presented MSU's Tommy Love Award as the team's most improved player.
"The 2008 season was great," Gantt said. "That was a special year with Javon Ringer and Brian Hoyer, and it felt great to get in the mix of things with them. That season brought my confidence up and it led the way to where I am at now."
And each year just keeps on getting better for Gantt.
As a junior, he tallied a career-high 22 catches for 348 receiving yards and was the recipient of MSU's Outstanding Underclass Lineman Award.
"I have mostly improved with the knowledge of the game, reading plays, and just being smarter out there," he said. "I just try to keep getting bigger and stronger. I can tell how much I have improved by going up against people, and I have improved a lot on my blocking skills too."
During his time at Michigan State, Gantt has not only had the chance to be a part of some unforgettable Spartan victories, but has also been a member of what he calls an "interesting group" of tight ends.
Gantt commented, "I have to say, my favorite part about the position is my tight end teammates (which includes Brian Linthicum, Garrett Celek, Derek Hoebing and Drew Stevens). We have a lot of fun together. We are an interesting group I would have to tell you that. (We're) probably the most interesting group on the team. We're all best friends and we have fun out there. We coach each other up. Nobody is out there being an individual. We're all helping each other out. It's fun to be around each other."
It's Gantt's hard work ethic and dedication to the Spartan football program that has helped him secure his starting position for three straight years. Gantt is humble when talking about achieving his dream of starting at Michigan State, and attributes most of his success to the people that have coached him throughout his journey.
"To me, Coach Staten has been like a father figure," said Gantt. "He gets up on me like a coach does, he disciplines you. Sometimes you don't like it but I feel like he's really pushed me to get me where I am right now. Coach Dantonio is one of the top coaches in the nation just because he is one of those coaches, like my high school coach (Al Fracassa), who cares more about you as person and your future than a football player."
"Michigan State football means pride. It's hard to grasp as a freshman, but as you grow older, you know what it means to be a Spartan and all of the history and the tradition that goes along with that. I do take immense pride in being a Spartan and being a part of Spartan football."
Gantt is always looking for ways to improve his game and tries to prepare each week by watching film. He looks to push himself and claims he's never satisfied with his performance because no matter what, he knows he can always do better. Gantt is a dynamic player on the field, proving to be huge threat to many opposing teams, but is actually quite calm in the moments leading up to kickoff.
"When preparing for a game, I just visualize," Gantt said. "I'm not one of those `hurrah' guys. About when I hit the tunnel, I'm one of those guys, but before the game, I'm kind of to myself, thinking about the game. When I take the field, my emotion keeps growing. I'm a little nervous but when the first play snaps, it's on."
Gantt got his start at playing football in eighth grade when he played tight end and defensive end for the North Farmington-West Bloomfield Vikings. It was way before his involvement in football that he knew he wanted to come to Michigan State. Gantt comes from a line of Spartans that include his sister, aunts and uncles.
Gantt said, "Michigan State football means pride. It's hard to grasp as a freshman, but as you grow older, you know what it means to be a Spartan and all of the history and the tradition that goes along with that. I have learned that and I think I have grasped that now. I do take immense pride in being a Spartan and being a part of Spartan football."
Even though Gantt will graduate in December with a degree in telecommunications, he aspires to pursue a career in either professional football or nursing. With Gantt's departure, the Michigan State football program will not only lose a tremendously talented tight end, but a player who puts his heart and soul into everything he does.
"I may not think about it now, but I'll probably miss the 5:15 a.m. lifts," he said. "I'm going to miss everything because it's like a routine. It's what I have been doing for five years. I see guys come back all the time that used to play here and say that they miss all the tough things and everything about it. I'm going to cherish these last few weeks."
GETTING TO KNOW Charlie Gantt
FAVORITE FOOD: Chicken
DREAM JOB: NFL football player FAVORITE SPORT OTHER THAN FOOTBALL: Basketball
FAVORITE NFL TEAM: Detroit Lions
FAVORITE VACATION: A cruise
FAVORITE SPOT ON CAMPUS: Spartan Stadium
This feature was originally published in the Nov. 6 edition of Michigan State Football Gameday Magazine.