East Lansing — Michigan State cornerback Arjen Colquhoun is a rare breed. He’s a Canadian who has never been ice skating.
He thought of giving it a try this week but was quickly talked out of it by an alert girlfriend who does not want to risk possible disaster so close to the biggest game of his career.
“Maybe I will go ice skating after the break,” he said, laughing.
Colquhoun savors every moment on the field, not surprising for a player who spent four years on the bench before finally becoming a starting cornerback in his fifth season. He won’t do anything to jeopardize the position he’s in. That includes a whirl around an ice skating rink.
He’s played behind Mylan Hicks, Trae Waynes and Darqueze Dennard. He’s overcome injuries and tough breaks and tough times.
Now, Colquhoun will start at corner for Michigan State when it faces Alabama in the New Year’s Eve Cotton Bowl. The Spartans (12-1) face long odds against Alabama (12-1). But those odds are no longer than those that Colquhoun faced as a football player.
He attended the Sound Mind and Sound Body football camp in Detroit his senior year in high school and simply wanted to impress one coach from any school. That happened when former Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi liked his length (6-foot-1, 207 pounds.) After a few phone calls Narduzzi offered Colquhoun a scholarship.
That was the good news. The bad news is Colquhoun rarely played. Injuries played a part but MSU also featured talented cornerbacks. He could not break into the lineup.
“I have taken a longer road than most people have taken,” he said. “And it doesn’t matter how you get here. I am just happy to be here.”
Colquhoun admits sitting got to him.
“It is stressful,” he said. “Five years and not playing until your last year and you still have to battle your last year to play. It is definitely stressful, but I think I handled it pretty well. I tried to have a positive mindset and a positive attitude. I feel like I’ve earned my place.”
He overcame many trying times, including this season as a starter. He’s played well but his toughest play came when he could not hang on to an interception during the final seconds against Nebraska. He stretched as far as he could but failed to hang onto the ball, giving the Huskers one more chance to win the game on a controversial touchdown.
That game stung.
He didn’t pout, though. He didn’t get down. Instead, Colquhoun played some of his best football. In four games since, MSU has given up just four touchdowns and 185 yards per game passing while intercepting seven balls.
Colquhoun is confident his side will win if Alabama passes.
“If I were a betting man, I would take that bet,” he said. “I think we are playing outstanding now. We’re playing flawlessly; no one is worried about anything and that’s how you have to play.”
Cornerback Demetrius Cox said the team didn’t need to rally around Colquhoun because he’d already learned the Spartans way of overcoming bad moments.
“Playing here you have to have a short memory or you won’t play,” Cox said. “You can’t go out there and play alongside with something you did in the last and let it get to you. That is something all the defensive backs have. You have to have that mentality. You can’t be afraid to make mistakes and let it hold you back the next play.”
Alabama is not just about the run. Freshman wide receiver Calvin Ridley, who has been compared to former Crimson Tide standout Amari Cooper, caught 75 balls for 893 yards.
“From the film I see they do some good things and some things they don’t do quite as well,” Colquhoun said. “I feel like they do some things we can exploit and take advantage of. Over the last 10 years they’ve run college football but on film I don’t think these are.”
He pauses before getting himself in trouble with the bulletin-board police.
“They are beatable,” he finally says. “I will leave it at that. I think we have a great opportunity in this game.”