Max Bullough would not disclose what he did that led to his suspension, but he did tell NFL teams that asked him about it at the combine. (Nati Harnik / Associated Press)
Indianapolis — Former Michigan State linebacker Max Bullough on Saturday refused to explain what led to his suspension prior to the Rose Bowl.
“That’s a situation that I’m not discussing right now,” he said at the NFL combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. “It’s a personal issue, and I’m moving forward from it. I made a mistake.
“I let down my teammates, I let down my coaches, I let down my family, but right now I’m looking forward to the NFL.”
Bullough, a two-time captain who started 40 straight games at middle linebacker, was suspended for a violation of team rules on Dec. 25 last year. Asked point-blank if he failed a drug test, Bullough said he would not discuss rumors and is moving forward.
In his first public appearance since the suspension, Bullough explained that he was devastated about missing the Rose Bowl.
“It was devastating that I wasn’t going to be playing for it,” he said. “When I went to Michigan State, I wanted to bring Michigan State to the top. That was my goal.
“I had very few individual goals — I obviously had some on the side, but I wanted to bring Michigan State back to the top. And knowing that I jeopardized that with all the momentum we had going into that game, that’s what hurt the most.”
While missing the game was upsetting, Bullough did participate in the celebration. He started training at Velocity Sports Performance in Irvine, Calif., a week before the Rose Bowl and went to the team hotel to celebrate and apologize to some teammates after the Spartans’ 24-20 victory over Stanford.
Bullough said he watched the game at a restaurant with his parents, and although it was difficult to watch, he was proud of his teammates.
“The Rose Bowl wasn’t about Max Bullough,” he said. “The Rose Bowl wasn’t even about this year. The Rose Bowl was about Michigan State, the program and the history behind it, and the tradition that we were trying to bring back.
“After the game, that wasn’t hard at all; it was great. It was one of the best times in my life being in that hotel with those guys, and they were jumping on me, running around me, running up to me when I got there. It was just an unbelievable feeling.”
Bullough was defiant Saturday when pressed by reporters about his suspension, but he said he’s interviewed with every NFL team while in Indianapolis and explained the situation when asked.
“They all know what happened and the situation, and moving forward it’s not going to affect my draft stock whatsoever,” he said.
Even if the suspension doesn’t affect Bullough’s stock, his tape from his senior year has already hurt him, NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said on a conference call this week. Bullough was third in tackles for the Big Ten champion Spartans, but Mayock said he didn’t look as quick as he needs to be for the NFL.
“I didn't see the ability to get to the hole and make a play like I did in prior years,” Mayock said, adding he projects Bullough as a fifth-round pick.
The 6-foot-3, Bullough weight 249 pounds at the combine, down from 265 at the East-West Shrine Game in January. He explained that he gained the weight during his training after the suspension when he was consuming large amounts of protein and lifting, but rarely running.
Bullough said he’s spoken with Spartans coach Mark Dantonio weekly about his draft prospects. Despite the suspension, Bullough thinks his intangibles and leadership make him appealing to NFL teams.
“If you draft Max Bullough, you’re not only getting a football player, you’re getting a leader,” he said. “You’re getting a guy that’s been around success.”
Bullough doesn't think his suspension will tarnish his legacy at Michigan State.
"I think my legacy is what it’s always been," he said. "No one questioned my legacy leaving that Ohio State game (the Big Ten championship). I don’t think it’s any different.
"I was a guy that went in there (and) worked my tail off for four years. I was a part of two (Big Ten) championship teams — we lost one, tied one and won one my last year. I came pretty close, if not achieved, my goal of bringing Michigan State back to the top, where I think they belong."