This is the last in a series of profiles on the top 15 players on The Detroit News Blue Chip list. Today: No. 1, Detroit Cass Tech cornerback Kalon Gervin.
East Lansing – Kalon Gervin looked relaxed and happy, taking a seat in the second floor of the Skandalaris Football Center Friday while talking about his first few weeks as a student-athlete at Michigan State.
Gervin, a four-star cornerback and a member of The Detroit News Dream Team, is thrilled with his decision to enroll early and get a head start on his college career after helping Detroit Cass Tech reach the Division 1 state semifinals this past fall.
Gervin is The No. 1 player on The Detroit Blue Chip list and is expected to be an impact player for the Spartans, who finished 10-3 and No. 15 in the nation in the final AP poll.
“I love it, I think it was one of the best things I did, come in early and being with the guys,” Gervin told The Detroit News. “There’s seven of us (who enrolled early). We see each other every day; talk to them all the time, bond with them.
“Xavier Henderson, Javez (Alexander), who is my roommate, Julian (Major), Theo Day – those are some of the guys I’ve been talking to a lot.”
Gervin had just finished with a class, then met with tutors before heading to his dorm at Case Hall for a few minutes before walking across the street to the Skandalaris building for his interview. Oh, and he planned to do laundry later that afternoon.
Yes, Gervin is getting used to college life. He loves having tutors and says they’re a big reason he’s gaining confidence on campus.
“I thank God for tutors,” Gervin said. “I had my first math exam on Wednesday and I had a tutor right before the exam and that really helped, definitely makes a difference since I was way more confident, really knew what was going on.”
Gervin has attended some MSU basketball games and has met some of the players during his tutoring sessions.
“I remember watching them on TV before I got here,” Gervin said. “Now, it’s crazy to see Miles Bridges, Cassius (Winston) and all those dudes in tutoring. They’re cool too, like, ‘What’s up.’”
‘It’s going to pay off’
Gervin has gotten in his share of workouts, knowing things are only going to heat up this week with the start of winter conditioning – known around MSU as the “Fourth Quarter Program” and headed by strength and conditioning coach Ken Mannie. That program concludes at the end of February and leads into spring practice.
“It’s going to be brutal, but I’m ready for the task,” Gervin said of the Fourth Quarter Program. “I’m ready to get started with it. I know it’s going to pay off.”
Gervin, who arrived on campus Jan. 8 and plans on majoring in kinesiology, has already put on four pounds.
“Everything is just high-tech here, facilities are great,” said the 5-foot-11 Gervin, who is up to 184 pounds. “I feel stronger, faster. I just want to get physically ready for college football and I’ve been doing good. I see progress for sure.
“I’m a competitive person; that’s just my nature coming from Cass Tech. We just compete. Even with the workouts I’ve just been really competitive with the guys and it’s been fun. I’m just ready to compete and get on the field. I’m just going to take one day at a time, not overthink things or anything like that. I just want to listen to the coaches, work on my craft and listen to the older guys.
“I took a peek at the (playbook) with Coach Tres (defensive coordinator Mike Tressel) a couple of times, just going over little stuff. We just got I-Pads, has all the plays on it, all the practices, and I’m starting to go over it, watching a lot of film to see what’s going on.
Gervin is confident he made the right decision in picking MSU.
“I knew what to expect since I came here so much and for so long,” Gervin said. “Everybody’s cool – coaches, players, everyone. It’s like a family. The team is so close. As soon as I got into the locker room, everyone welcomed me with open arms, like I had already been here – and we’re talking older guys too.”
Thirteen MSU freshmen saw playing time for MSU in 2017 – the most in one season under head coach Mark Dantonio. The previous high was nine in 2016.
It bodes well for Gervin, who hopes to follow in the footsteps of Josiah Scott, who enrolled early in 2017 and started as a freshman cornerback for the Spartans.
“Kalon is quick and a very explosive player,” Dantonio said of Gervin during the early signing period in December. “He really has all the makings of a great corner. He shows great change of direction, can roll over and make tight cuts, and has the ability to flip his hips and run. He’s also a good tackler.”
Lessons from Wilcher
Gervin arrived at Cass Tech as a running back, but longtime head coach Thomas Wilcher felt he had the athleticism and skill set to play cornerback at a high level, giving him the chance to take his talent to the next level.
Wilcher was right on the money.
Gervin had the opportunity to learn from standout defensive backs in Lavert Hill, Donovan Johnson, Demetric Vance and Jaylen Kelly-Powell while going up against elite receivers in practice, including Donovan Peoples-Jones.
“He taught me to compete, don’t be afraid to be great, go out there and believe in yourself,” said Gervin of Wilcher. “I had just played offense when I got there, played running back all my life, then started playing cornerback when I got to Cass. He said he believed I could be a top corner in the country and so I started working on it. He had a plan and I just followed his plan.
“When Lavert was there before he went to King, he taught me a lot. I’ve been talking to Jourdan Lewis too, even though he went to Michigan. Jourdan just tells me to keep perfecting your craft.”
Lewis and Delano Hill played in the same backfield at Cass Tech when it won consecutive state titles in 2011 and 2012. They both played together at Michigan and were third-round picks in the 2017 NFL Draft with Lewis going to the Cowboys and Hill to the Seahawks.
While Wilcher played football under Bo Schembechler at Michigan, his daughter, Kiersten, went to Michigan State. Gervin made sure to point that out since he and former Cass Tech offensive lineman Jordan Reid – who also got on the field as a freshman this past season at MSU – met with their former coach in January while Wilcher dropped his daughter off for school.
“Man, I bleed green, I bleed green,” said Wilcher, laughing and pointing out that green and white are Cass Tech’s colors.
Cass Tech advanced to the state championship game Gervin’s sophomore year, losing to Romeo in 2015, then made a return trip to Ford Field in 2016, defeating Detroit Catholic Central to walk away holding the state championship trophy. Cass Tech lost to West Bloomfield in the state semifinals this past fall.
Gervin had a strong senior season, coming up with 38 tackles while breaking up 10 passes. He also returned an interception for a TD.
“I always thought he’d be a good defensive back because of his speed and agility,” said Wilcher of Gervin. “I knew he had quickness and I wanted to make sure he always did the right thing, so we always paid attention to him. He always worked hard.”
BLUE CHIP PROFILES