Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio talks about the Spartans' open week before they take on Notre Dame on Sept. 23 in East Lansing. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News
East Lansing — As Florida and other parts of the Southeast begin cleanup after Hurricane Irma, a handful of Michigan State players are preparing to head to Houston later this week to aid in the recovery efforts in Texas after Hurricane Harvey hit more than a week ago.
Without a game this weekend, it offers the perfect opportunity for the Spartans to give back. And it happens to be in a city that his home to sophomores Darrell Stewart and Tyler Higby, as well as wide receivers coach Terrence Samuel.
The families of all three made it through the storm relatively unscathed and, after the Spartans defeated Western Michigan on Saturday, Stewart talked about what it meant to him that so many of his teammates were willing to join in and help.
“It means a lot, just seeing us as a Spartan family can stick together and just help out the city that made me the man I am today,” Stewart said. “One thing I told the guys, I was like, ‘The main goal for me is going back and giving back to the city that gave a lot to me.’ Going back and seeing people going through devastating times, I just want to … make them happy and let them know that we’ve got hope. As long as you have faith in God, anything is possible.”
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio didn’t offer a lot of details Tuesday on the number of players going, or what exactly they’d be doing. Instead, he wanted to keep the focus on what will be accomplished once they get there.
“I just think it’s a good thing,” Dantonio said. “It’s a good cause and our guys are going down for the right reason.”
Stewart said he’d be willing to do whatever is necessary, from cleaning up to just talking with those affected by the storm.
And even if it didn’t happen in his hometown, he’s confident he and his teammates would respond in similar fashion.
“I feel like they’d go anywhere,” Stewart said. “I hang around these guys 365 days and they’re willing to help out anybody. Just anybody. It doesn’t matter what status you are. I feel like my teammates and me, we’d just go in and try to do the best things we can do.”
The schedule likely won’t allow any Spartans to help out in Florida, the home to four current players —freshman DE Lashawn Paulino-Bell (Tampa), freshman WR Laress Nelson (Fort Lauderdale), junior DB T.J. Harrell (Tampa) and senior DL Devyn Salmon (Plant City).
“Everybody’s family is OK,” Dantonio said. “I think they probably are without power, some of them, but they seem to be doing OK. We’ve checked on all of them.”
By playing running back Connor Heyward on special teams last week, Michigan State now has played 10 true freshmen through two games.
“I think (he) will be an outstanding player for us,” Dantonio said. “You’ll see him showing up in other special teams in other areas, as well.”
Dantonio said on Tuesday that safety Dominique Long will be the next true freshman to see the field, likely next week against Notre Dame.
“I think he’s another guy that will play,” Dantonio said. “I just think he does too many things on special teams. He’s a good tackler. I think we can get him involved.”
Michigan State played nine true freshmen all of last season and already has surpassed that number just two games into this season. How many more see game action remains to be seen, but Long has put himself in position to contribute.
“It’s a long season, and you get guys nicked up and they can’t practice and then you end up practicing this guy or that guy,” Dantonio said. “But we’ll see how it all shakes out. I thought (Long) might have played this past week but we held him out, but I do anticipate him playing.”
Dantonio said redshirt freshman offensive lineman A.J. Arcuri has been bothered by an undisclosed injury and that he should be able to begin practicing by next month.
“We’ll know on A.J. here early October,” Dantonio said. “My hope is that he’ll start to be able to practice again. He’s had to go through some different things with his surgery, but it’s our hope that that will happen here in October. So, he will be available to play some.”
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