Damion Terry Feature: The Prize Has Been in His Journey
Spartan Senior Quarterback
By Angie Bazzano, MSU Athletic Communications Student Assistant
For senior quarterback Damion Terry, being a Michigan State Spartan has been a roller-coaster ride of a journey, filled with ups and downs, twists and turns. However, this journey has shaped him into the person he is today, and he wouldn’t change being a Spartan for anything.
Terry’s football journey began when he first picked up a football at a very young age to when he first started playing with pads before age five. Since then, his passion for the game kept growing and everything he has dreamed of doing has revolved around having a football in his hands.
The Erie, Pennsylvania, native’s passion for football can be traced back to his roots as a Steelers fan. Just like most people in Western Pennsylvania, being a Steelers fan is a way of life and with it carries a winning culture and the value of hard work. This then set the tone for the traditions and values Terry would seek in a college football program, which ultimately led him to Michigan State.
“It really led me to Michigan State. I think they’re blue-collar, hard-nosed, tough. It really matched what I was born and raised around with Steelers fans and all that,” Terry said. “It led me here, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
The culture and traditions that surround Michigan State, the athletic department and the football program resonated with Terry from the moment he stepped on campus. Everything from the beauty of the school, the way the coaches interacted with him, to being a part of the Spartan family had a role in making East Lansing feel like home for Terry.
“Right when I stepped on campus it just felt like I was at home. I loved every single bit of it,” Terry said. “Big campus, green everywhere, beautiful buildings, big football stadium. It was just the place for me.”
Being a part of the Spartan family, a journey that started five years ago, is something that will continue with Terry even after his football career comes to a close and his time in East Lansing expires. It is the relationships he’s made over the past five years and the person he has become as a result that will stay with him through his next steps in life.
“We don’t play for the name on the back of the jersey, we play for the name on the front,” Terry said. “We have Michigan State alumni in every state, almost in every country. We’re represented everywhere, and it’s awesome to see.”
Learning how to navigate the setbacks he has experienced wouldn’t have been possible without all of the support he has received over the years from his family, teammates and coaches. It is these supporters that have taught him how to look those challenges right in the eye and keep on fighting.
The Terry family, especially his mom and grandma, have been his rocks ever since he left home to pursue his football career five years ago. They have been there through it all and helped him believe in himself, even when at times his football dreams seemed so far away.
“My family shows me endless support. Whenever I’m down, whenever I’m up, I can always ask them for help. They know when I’m feeling up or when I’m feeling down,” Terry said. “I’m coming from an all-boys high school to 50,000 people at Michigan State so it was a new world for me but they’ve always had my back. I’ve gone through a lot of adversity with injuries and stuff since I’ve been here but they’ve always helped me, to stick to the plan.”
Beginning college was an eye-opening experience for Terry, as he was coming from an all boys high school, Cathedral Prep to a Big Ten college campus. His first year proved to have a few challenges itself with being from out of state and redshirting his freshman year. Terry also faced multiple injuries during the past few years, with this past summer being his first summer working out.
From each of them Terry has learned different valuable lessons that have helped shaped him into the person he is today. From Connor Cook, he learned the importance of never giving up, even when odds are against you. Tyler O’Connor taught him the value of hard work and Tommy Vento provided Terry with a model vision for respect.
“Connor, just never giving up. I know everyone’s familiar with Connor’s name and what he did here, but that’s one thing he never did. On the football field he never gave up. When odds were against him, when his back was against the wall, he kept fighting. Tyler was a hard worker. He really worked hard at everything he did whether that’s in school, on the football field, in the weight room. Tyler, he was just a go-getter. Tommy just respected everyone. He truly cared for everyone. It didn’t matter if you were from California, from Michigan, from Pennsylvania, just show everyone respect and it will come back to you.”
The coaching staff had a heavy impact in the reason why Terry decided to come to Michigan State in the first place and those relationships that he built with them helped him to remain strong and determined in those times of adversity.
“I’ve been through some adversity here, whether on the field, off the field and they always stuck behind me. Even when I don’t see it in myself, they’ll always tell me they believe in me,” Terry praises. “They’ve really stuck with me and I think that’s why I bleed Green.”
Terry also believes he has the greatest coaching staff, in head coach Mark Dantonio and his position coach Brad Salem. Specifically, Dantonio’s genuine care and empathy for his players goes a long way in Terry’s mind and helps to build the Spartan family culture by which Terry lives. MSU quarterbacks coach Brad Salem has been a role model for Terry, more than on that football field.
“Coach Salem, he really sets the mark in there as the quarterbacks,” Terry said. “How to be a father, how to be a great man and respectable. It goes a long way. I think it really shows in our quarterback room.”
Although there have been plenty of memorable moments for him during his career, there are two moments in particular, one team related and one personal, that stick out in Terry’s mind as ones that he will never forget.
“One moment I’d say football-wise as a team, definitely the Rose Bowl,” said Terry. “Just seeing those seniors and what they went through because I really think they laid the foundation for me and taught me what it takes to be a Spartan.”
The 2013 season involved thrilling wins over rivals Michigan and Ohio State and a Big Ten Championship victory, getting a win in the tradition-filled Rose Bowl was an exhilarating experience. Terry reflects on that season as one that solidifies what it meant to be a Spartan and the hard work that encompasses the program. Leadership from seniors Darqueze Dennard, Blake Treadwell and Max Bullough helped set the tone for expectations going forward throughout Terry’s career.
“Just everything that senior class went through. Backs were against the wall going into that season and they really had one plan and got everyone to buy in,” Terry said.
Individually, the game at No. 8 Penn State last season was an important milestone for Terry in his career here. Terry received his first start of his career and went 7-of-12 passing for 101 yards which set career highs for both completions and yards.
“That was my first start, and I think I played pretty well that game,” Terry said. “It just boosted my confidence back up. It was nice to get out there and start for a game, first time since my senior year of high school.”
In addition to that game being his first career start, it was even more memorable for him because he was able to achieve that career milestone in his home state with family and friends cheering him on.
As Terry graduates this coming May with a degree in Advertising, he will be the first member of his family to walk across the stage and receive a college diploma. While this is a great personal accomplishment for him, no one will be happier and more proud of him than his mom.
“As happy as I am, I don’t think there’s going to be anyone happier that day than my mom,” Terry said. “I know she’s going to be screaming, she’s going to be crying, filled with emotions. It will be the best feeling.”
To Terry, being a Spartan revolves around toughness, physically and mentally, never quitting and in the words of Coach Dantonio, being gritty.
Looking back to when he first entered MSU in the fall of 2013 and comparing that to who he is now, Terry feels that he has become a whole new person, for the better.
“I grow every phase throughout college it seems. Since I came in as a freshman boy, a young 17-year-old kid, now I’m going to leave a 22-year-old here in the spring,” Terry said. “I just changed so much. If I think about it, you’re branded a Spartan when you come here. I really believe that. I feel like a new man.”
With all of those ups and downs that have been implemented over his past five years as a Spartan, Terry overcame adversity and remained positive through it all. His advice to his younger teammates and to kids who dream of being a Spartan one day is to stay true to yourself and stick to who you are.
“Listen to what the coaches are saying. It might not make sense now but it’s all going to pan out and pan out for you. Stick to who you are,” Terry advises. “I know a lot of people come to college and it’s just eye-opening, every way you look at it. Whether it’s what you’re doing, football or off the field in school, it’s just a whole new world to you. Stick to really who you are and just stay the course. It’s not always going to be easy but it will all work out.”
Soon Terry will put on his Green and White for the last time this fall, but he will remember the first time he ever ran out of the tunnel at Spartan Stadium and the pride he feels whenever he is able to take the field with his teammates.
“Running out of that tunnel, lights shinning; It was something I’ll never forget. Just being able to suit up with my brothers, going to war with them each and every day,” Terry said. “There’s not a better feeling than when you go out there on Saturdays and get the W. That’s what I’m going to miss most, just being with them. I really cherish that the most.”
Terry, as well as other members of the football team, wear wristbands in honor of their former teammate Mike Sadler who passed away in July 2016. The message on the wristbands state: The prize is in the journey. Terry wears his wristband with pride, as the message is a reminder that the journey is the most important part and that it will be well worth it in the end.
“I meet a lot of people nowadays, if something hard comes they turn and quit. But the prize is in the journey. I really take away from that. The journey is the process and you have to learn to love the process in order to get that fulfillment from the reward at the end,” Terry said. “Adversity comes to every one, no one’s life is perfect. So you got to keep sticking through and fighting through. At the end of the tunnel you’ll start to see that light. You’ll come out a better and different person after and it will be for the better.”
Although his time in East Lansing may be coming to a close, Terry will take the lessons he has learned here with him wherever the future brings him, because indeed, the prize is in his journey – as it has been for the past five years.