Former Michigan State players Brian Allen, Gerald Holmes and Chris Frey talk about getting ready for the NFL. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News
Every year since 1967, Michigan State has had a player taken in the NFL Draft.
That was the first draft after the NFL-AFL merger and is considered the modern era of the league’s annual selection of college players.
And the Spartans are in rare company when it comes to hearing the names of at least one of their players in consecutive years. Only four other programs have achieved the same feat — Michigan, Florida, Nebraska and Southern Cal. In fact, the Spartans have had a player taken in every year of the NFL Draft since 1941, a 77-year run that is bested only by Michigan and USC, which have had a player taken for 79 consecutive years.
Which brings us to this year’s draft that runs from Thursday-Saturday.
This time around, the streak is in jeopardy as a small senior class has helped lead to only a few possibilities to get their name called. The most likely is center Brian Allen, a potential late-round pick who played in 51 games in his Michigan State career while earning second-team All-Big Ten honors three times.
The other two potential picks are running back Gerald Holmes and linebacker Chris Frey, though both would be considered long shots.
That leaves Allen (6-foot-2, 302 pounds) as the best shot at keeping the streak alive.
“I haven’t thought about it,” Allen admitted this week. “There’s probably been five or six teams that claim they’re gonna draft me, so we’ll see.”
Allen seems like a player most teams would love to have. The younger brother of Jack, who is in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints, drew rave reviews at the East-West Shrine game and visited with about 20 teams at the NFL Combine. All, Allen said, remarked how consistent he was when watching his game film that included starts at center and both guard positions.
Since the combine, Allen said seven or eight teams have remained in consistent contact while he went to Los Angeles for a visit with the Rams and had a workout with offensive coaches of the New England Patriots.
At this point, however, the impressions have already been made.
“They can watch your film, work you out and see wat kind of athlete you are and stuff like that,” Allen said “Everyone kind of gives me the same feedback that I get, really good tape and one of the better centers in the class, so I’m excited to see what happens.
“It’s kind of weird going through this process, like in college they can tell you they want you and offer you and stuff like that. Now it’s ‘We hope to work together.’ It’s not as formal because they know it’s just the nature of the business that so much stuff can happen.”
Allen is back home in Hinsdale, Ill., a suburb of Chicago after spending a couple of weeks in East Lansing following Michigan State’s pro day. The whole family will be in town to take in the draft with most of the attention being paid on Saturday for rounds 4-7.
Allen will try not to sweat the next few days.
“Just business as usual,” he said. “I’m not really worried about anything, kind of just getting ready to get to the end of the week. I’m not nervous or anything. I’m not anxious. I just want to know what’s going on and attack whatever happens.”
It will be a similar approach for Holmes, the Flint native who has steadily been opening eyes since MSU’s pro day. His name was brought up by former NFL executive and current NFL.com analyst Gil Brandt, who said Holmes is “on the NFL radar” after his performance at pro day.
Holmes (6-1, 231) said he heard about the mention and said it was huge to be noticed by someone with Brandt’s resume.
“It feels pretty good,” Holmes said. “I’m just staying relaxed and just rolling with the punches. I’m not trying to get too crazy excited but at the same time I’m definitely excited. I’m looking forward to the weekend and see how everything pans out.”
Holmes has had plenty of work to do to impress the scouts after spending most of his MSU career sharing the backfield with the likes of Jeremy Langford and LJ Scott. He ran for 1,302 yards and 14 touchdowns in 39 career games, including 14 starts.
After working out over the winter in Miami, Holmes has been back in Flint since pro day. He’ll spend Thursday and Friday in Las Vegas with family and a couple friends to get away from things, then head to his father’s home in Seattle to sit and wait for that call on Saturday.
“It’s been kind of up and down,” Holmes said. “I’ve talked with a couple of teams but I’ll keep that under wraps. It was more than I expected, but I’ve definitely been getting some feedback. Now it’s just waiting for the big day and see if a team wants me. All you need is for one team to fall in love with you and I’m waiting for that.”
Frey (6-2, 238) will more likely be an undrafted free agent.
However, the defensive MVP of the Michigan State’s Holiday Bowl had an impressive pro day.
“I felt really good — I hit some numbers that I really wanted to hit,” Frey said. “I showed a few things to the teams that I haven’t had a chance to talk to and haven’t had a chance to see. So I’m really excited about the numbers that I put up and the exposure I got in front of the teams.”