MSU’s Shilique Calhoun hopes move to New England ignites career
Allen Park — He calls the other one Coach D and his new boss Coach B: Two no-nonsense leaders who lifted unheralded football teams to unprecedented success.
Now under the tutelage of Bill Belichick with the New England Patriots, defensive lineman Shilique Calhoun hopes to reach the level of success he once enjoyed with Mark Dantonio’s Michigan State Spartans.
“You can never have a fresh start, but it’s nice to come somewhere new and just have an opportunity,” Calhoun said.
After compiling 27 sacks and 44 tackles for a loss in a decorated college career, Calhoun was selected in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders.
The New Jersey native and three-time All-Big Ten player had 23 tackles and no sacks in 26 games over three seasons in Oakland. Over the past two seasons, Calhoun spent time on the Oakland practice squad as the team combined for a 10-22 mark.
Calhoun said he doesn’t know why it didn’t work out in Oakland, but health was at least part of it. Two of the three seasons ended on injured reserve, but Calhoun said he’s healthy now after last year’s neck injury.
In the offseason, the 27-year-old Calhoun spent lots of time jobless, finally joining the Patriots in early May.
“I feel like I’m ready to go, each and every day, just go out and compete,” he said. “It’s a blessing. To just have the opportunity to go out there and compete. So I just want to thank the organization because it’s always nice putting the pads on, having fun with a bunch of guys that’s dedicated about one common goal.”
The defending Super Bowl champions expect to continue a run of success like Calhoun did at Michigan State, where the Spartans went 36-5 in his three primary seasons of action.
Whether Calhoun will be a part of it depends on how he performs this preseason. Entering Thursday’s exhibition opener in Detroit, the early signs are good.
“We definitely felt like he would have an opportunity to compete here, which he’s done a good job of,” Belichick said. “There’s some other things that we’ve had to work through with him, but I’m glad we have him, and he’s very competitive in his position, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Calhoun is getting a lot of reps this week in joint practices with the Lions and closed Tuesday's session playing in a two-minute drill with the first unit.
“Right now, I could be with the ones. Next week, I could be with the twos,” Calhoun said. “It’s just another opportunity to get better. It doesn’t matter which team I’m in on, I just try to get better each and every snap.”
He’ll be battling for a roster spot, likely behind Michigan rookie Chase Winovich in the pecking order.
Despite the rivalry, there’s no ill will between teammates, with Calhoun saying he works well together with Winovich.
When asked about his prediction for the upcoming Spartans’ season though, Calhoun went back hard into his MSU corner: “Take it all the way,” he said. “No other prediction.”
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.