NFL players to impart wisdom at Spartan Elite Camp

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

East Lansing — Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes knew what he wanted to do with his free time.

After Minnesota’s mandatory minicamp wrapped up Thursday, he jumped at the chance to take part in Saturday’s Spartan Elite camp.

For Waynes, the one-day senior camp at Michigan State helped him earn a spot on coach Mark Dantonio’s roster in 2011.

“I was a camp kid,” Waynes said. “I didn’t really have that many scholarships coming out of high school. This camp is where I earned my scholarship and it means a lot to some kids.”

Waynes will be joined by 15 fellow NFL players — and Spartans: Garrett Celek (San Francisco), Kirk Cousins (Washington), Darqueze Dennard (Cincinnati), Kurtis Drummond (Houston), Bennie Fowler (Denver), Will Gholston (Tampa Bay), Taiwan Jones (N.Y. Jets), Jeremy Langford (Chicago), Tony Lippett (Miami), Keith Mumphery (Houston), Trenton Robinson (Carolina), Dion Sims (Miami), Drew Stanton (Arizona) and Jerel Worthy (Buffalo).

About 250 high school seniors are expected to attend the five-hour event.

Michigan State has nine commitments for the 2017 class, and several of those players as well as ones on its radar are expected to attend.

“I think it shows the kids and the recruits how committed we are to this program and how much (Michigan State) means to us for us to take the time to come back and work a camp,” Waynes said.

Like Waynes, Langford earned his scholarship at the camp. But he didn’t have the opportunity to showcase his skills in front of a horde of NFL players, something Langford said would have made quite an impact.

“I’m the type of guy that’d pick his ear or see what he did at this school, see what he did at college to get to where he was,” said Langford, who had 537 yards rushing, 279 yards receiving and seven touchdowns his rookie season with the Bears.

“That will be special especially to be coached by guys who actually play football and are not just saying it. They’re actually out there doing it.”

It also speaks volumes to the type of program Michigan State has become since Dantonio took over in 2007.

“I feel like we did have an opportunity to pave the way for everybody else and they got the ball rolling now,” said Gholston, a fourth-round pick who played at Michigan State from 2010-12. “It’s exciting to watch.

“The last five years we had a first-round draft pick so that’s really good and showing the momentum we got going. But the perception I feel like, guys work hard, we produce and the way we’ve been coached here has transitioned into the NFL.”

Stanton left Michigan State before Dantonio’s arrival, but has tracked the program’s progression.

“Bobby Williams, John L. Smith, Nick Saban, they were getting high-level recruits,” said Stanton, who is entering his 10th season. “They were getting four- and five-star guys that went on to the NFL.

“But Coach D is turning in Darqueze Dennard, who might’ve gotten skipped over and had one offer, and Jack Allen, who was a walk-on. They’re developing talent, they’re developing NFL players, which is a testament to Coach D and the staff that he has in place here.” @jamesbhawkins