Quietly, Marcus Rush makes key plays for Michigan State

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — Marcus Rush remembers his redshirt freshman camp like it was yesterday.

It was late in the summer of 2011, and the Spartans had just come off an 11-win season and a share of the Big Ten championship. For Rush, there were no grand plans of becoming an All-American or taking college football by storm.

All the 6-foot-3, 250-pound defensive end from Cincinnati wanted to do was get some playing time.

"It was Tyler Hoover and Will Gholston (starting)," Rush said Tuesday. "Those were two freaks I had to compete with."

But by the time the season was about to start, Hoover — who would suffer a rib injury in the opener and miss the season — had been moved to tackle and Rush was starting alongside Gholston.

"I was confident in myself and just knew I had the athletic ability to be able to at least play," Rush said. "Everything kind of fell in the right spot for me and I ended up starting that first game. Ever since then my focus has been on being consistent and doing my job. As the experience came I got better and better and I try to make sure I get better each week."

Since that night against Youngstown State in 2011, Rush has started every game for Michigan State except last season at Iowa. Heading into Michigan State's matchup against Indiana this week, Rush has started 46 of 47 games and is three short of tying the record for games started (shared by Joel Foreman and Eric Gordon).

But Rush, true to his quiet nature, isn't making a big deal of the fact that by the time Michigan State plays at Maryland on Nov. 15 he could have started more games than anyone in school history.

"I've been hearing that more now," Rush said. "But really, I'm just trying to do my thing and not worry about how many starts I have or anything."

There's no doubt the attention is not something Rush is used to dealing with. While his numbers have been impressive — he has 33½ tackles for loss and 14½ sacks in his career — he typically has been overlooked.

Even though he has been an integral part of some of the best defenses in the nation, teammates like Gholston and Shilique Calhoun have drawn most of the attention.

"Marcus Rush is a great football player," coach Mark Dantonio said. "I think he's a guy that nobody's talking about. He's been an impact player for us on the edge and had a lot of big plays for us. … He's a staple on our defensive line. He's where it starts."

Not surprisingly, Rush doesn't mind the attention going elsewhere. Calhoun, however, is more than happy to point out how important Rush is.

"We joke around all the time and I'll call him fat and smack him in the stomach," Calhoun said. "But he has definitely been a big brother to me. He's one of those guys that comes off the field and lets me know, 'This tackle is setting this way,' or 'He's being really aggressive, watch out for that.' We keep communicating as we hit the sidelines and as the game goes on his play gets better and better.

"He's one of those guys that is silent but deadly. You won't know of him and everyone will hype somebody else, but he'll make those key plays in those key moments."

And the last two weeks, as the Michigan State defense has started to take over games, Rush has been in the middle of it, making those key plays in key moments. More often than not, he has been joined by Calhoun.

Rush had two tackles for loss and a sack against Nebraska while Calhoun had a sack against Nebraska and Purdue.

Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said last week' "Shilique started off a little slow, but the last two weeks he has been really on point. He's back to where he was, I think. … (Rush), that guy just doesn't make many mistakes. The guy has had a great year. He's played like an all-Big Ten player."