Brian Lewerke, Chris Frey, Felton Davis and Demetrius Cooper discuss Michigan State's win over Iowa. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News


East Lansing — Demetrius Cooper admitted he wasn’t sure he’d be back in the position he was on Saturday.

That position, of course, was playing defensive end for Michigan State, getting after the quarterback and collecting a sack in the Spartans’ 17-10 victory over Iowa.

It’s something that seemed in doubt over the winter, leading into a spring and summer of uncertainty over whether he would get to play his final season with the Spartans. Cooper, a fifth-year senior, was in that spot after being arrested for spitting on a code enforcement officer in East Lansing late last fall.

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Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio suspended Cooper and pulled him off scholarship, forcing Cooper to prove that he deserved his final season.

Cooper has done that, and on Saturday, he was rewarded with his first start of the season.

“I feel like at Michigan State, Coach Dantonio really cares for his players as a person,” Cooper said. “At the end of the day we know people are gonna make mistakes and you can’t just bash them for their mistakes. He kept me out for a while and gave me the opportunity to come back and now I’m making plays for this team. I’m excited to be back here and looking forward to rest of season.”

More: Spartans turn turnover-averse in win over Hawkeyes

Not only did Cooper start against Iowa, he also recorded his first sack, one of three for Michigan State, which now has nine on the season, two shy of last year’s total.

But as much as that meant to Cooper, just getting the chance to play again has been huge.

“It really is a great opportunity for me,” Cooper said. “Besides all the negative stuff that went on, just for me to be back with the Michigan State football team, it is a blessing. I’m so excited to be back, man. It feels surreal to even be back here my senior year with everything that went on and I’m just blessed to be here.”

Cooper feels like he’s back in the swing of things and is confident the pass rush will continue to be improved from last season.

But as big as that is, Cooper said he’s most grateful for the growth he’s had off the field in the last few months.

“It’s just made me a different person overall,” Cooper said. “I knew it was time to grow up, time to not make the childish mistakes like I made. It’s something I learned from and that was a big step for me outside of football. For me as a person and in life just thinking about what if I wasn’t playing football and I made that mistake it could have been a lot worse.

“So, I just look at that and take that as a positive and it made me a better man, a better person and also made me a better football player because I go even harder.”