East Lansing — When Charlie Bell got on the bus this afternoon that was taking all of this year’s inductees into the Michigan State Athletics Hall of Fame to the induction ceremony at the Wharton Center on campus, it was an exciting moment.
Only part of that was because he was about to join the same hall that former teammates Mateen Cleaves and Morris Peterson are already a part of.
The biggest excitement might have come when he saw fellow Flint native Andre Rison, a five-time Pro Bowl receiver who starred at Michigan State under George Perles in the late 1980s.
“I was like, ‘Oh, that’s Andre Rison,’ ” Bell said Thursday before the ceremony. “He was somebody I grew up watching, watching him in the NFL and what he did and just the talent he had. I didn’t get a chance to see him in high school but hearing about him and knowing that he wasn’t just a great football player, he was a great basketball player and a great athlete.
“This is definitely special for me and I know it was for him, also.”
The night was special for all six inductees. Bell and Rison were joined by Mike York (hockey), Mary Kay Itnyre (basketball), Pat Milkovich (wrestling) and Doug Weaver (athletic director/football). York, the former the two-time All-American and two-time Hobey Baker Award finalist, was not able to attend because he’s still playing professionally in Germany.
The ceremony, which coincides with Michigan State’s varsity letter jacket presentation, makes it a unique event. And it’s one athletic director Mark Hollis enjoys as much as any because of the interaction between Spartans like the one Bell and Rison had.
“It will be fun tonight but to watch the student-athletes come in and sort of look detached from what the hall of famers are,” Hollis said, “and then they start talking and you can see the bond happen between 50-year-olds and 18-year-olds and that is what I really enjoy. That’s why we do things like the Carrier Classic and that, to see other Spartans that have walked the walk here and then their eyes start getting bigger and they start laughing and it’s fun connecting those parts of being a Spartan.”
For Bell and Rison, it was a chance to continue a Flint connection in the Hall of Fame, which includes the likes of Peterson and Cleaves as well as other former greats like Carl Banks and Lynn Chandnois
Bell reached the Final Four three straight seasons (1999, 2000, 2001) under coach Tom Izzo and won a national title in 2000. He scored 1,468 points and his 136 career starts are still the most in program history.
Rison, who also lettered in basketball and track while at Michigan State, was one of the stars of the team that reached the Rose Bowl in 1988. But his biggest success came as a pro where he was a Super Bowl champion following the 1996 season with the Green Bay Packers.
“With the individual awards, I just take them as they come,” Rison said. “I’m built on championships; winning championships. I was a state champion, a Rose Bowl champion, a Super Bowl champion and a Grey Cup champion.”
And it was the first installment of the Flintstones — Rison joked he couldn’t use that term because it was copyrighted by Cleaves, Peterson, Bell and Antonio Smith — that, Rison says, came up with the term “Spartan Dawgs.”
It’s used extensively by today’s players and Rison said it came out of motivation provided by none other than a Michigan coaching legend.
“Bo Schembechler told me if I went to Michigan State I would never play in a Rose Bowl,” Rison said. “We were the ones that wanted to defy those odds and we were becoming close on and off the field and were creating an ambiance of physical play … So we were just sitting around one day and said we were the Spartan Dawgs. It’s amazing it’s here now and is a mainstay in our program.”