By Rick Coates
This weekend the Michigan State Spartans will head to the Capital One
Bowl in Orlando to play the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Spartans
finished the regular season 11-1, with a share of the Big Ten
Championship, and ranked seventh in the country.
Two former Traverse City high school football standouts Eric Gordon
and Max Bullough played major roles on this years team.
Gordon, who graduated a couple of weeks ago (he was redshirted his
freshman season) with a degree in human resources and sociology has
started in 48 of 50 games he has played in and holds the Spartan
record for the most stats. Gordon was a Second Team All Big Ten
Linebacker and is expected to be drafted this spring into the NFL. He
played at TC West High School.
Freshman Max Bullough has made an immediate impact since arriving to
MSU last winter. Bullough graduated early from TC
St. Francis -- where he lead the Gladiators to two State Championships
-- in order to participate in spring practices. It paid off and
Bullough found himself on the special teams and also getting some time
in at middle linebacker. He had one interception and his 21 tackles
put him in the top 15 among his teammates; the most by a non-starter.
He made the ESPN All Big Ten Freshman Team and is expected to be a
starter next season at linebacker.
Bullough was born to play football. His grandfather Hank Bullough
played at MSU before coaching in the NFL and at MSU for several years.
His father Shane and uncle Chuck (now a coach at UCLA) were star
linebackers at MSU. Plus, his grandfather Jim Morse was a star running
back for Notre Dame and uncle Bobby Morse was a running back and his
dads roommate at MSU. Uncle Jim Morse played cornerback at Notre
Both Gordon and Bullough sat down after their final practice before
Christmas to discuss the season and their careers.
NE: Eric, what has this season meant to you personally being your last
as a Spartan and being a part of the team with the most wins in a
Eric Gordon: This has been real special for me, this has been my best
season ever as a football player and the best season MSU football has
had, so to be a part of it is a real honor. It also means a lot to me
to have my name up on the wall at Spartan Stadium as a Big Champion
along with my grandfather, who also won a championship. I really have
not had a a lot of time to reflect on it all because my focus is on my
last game and the fact that 12-1 sounds a lot better than 11-2.
NE: You have been a part of the best linebacking duo in the country
the last couple of years and maybe the best in Spartan history. What
has Greg Jones (two-year consensus All-American) meant to you as a
teammate and a friend?
Gordon: He has become one of my best friends on and off the field. We
room together on the road and the night before home games at the
Kellogg Center. Greg is a great guy; we are able to talk about
everything together -- football and personal stuff. He is a leader
both verbally and by example. It has been great to play next to him
these past four years.
One thing a lot of people might not know is Greg is real funny and is
always cracking jokes and that made a lot of practices a little easier
to deal with.
NE: Beating Michigan the last three years has to rank up there as a
highlight for you.
Gordon: Those are program wins and important to us as seniors, but
also to the program. Hopefully next years class will be able to say
they never lost to Michigan.
NE: Your last game in a Spartan uniform will be the Capital One Bowl
so that will be emotional, but you have some unfinished business.
While the senior class accomplished the goal of winning a Big Ten
Championship, you have yet to win a bowl game:
Gordon: Absolutely, this is so important to us seniors and to this
program. It has been about 10 years since our last bowl win (2001
versus Fresno State in the Silcon Valley Bowl). We have lost the last
three bowl games; they all have been close. Not only is winning this
bowl game important to us, but as a class it will put our final season
NE: What is bowl week like?
Gordon: We wrapped up practices in East Lansing and all of us go home
for a few days with our families. The team will fly out Christmas
afternoon. We will practice in the mornings and then in the afternoons
we will do some community service work. We will go to Disney World,
Universal Studios; essentially every hour is planned out for us.
Really, it is a typical week of practice, just the weather is better.
NE: You have said that someday you would like to own your own marina,
but after this weekend you certainly are hoping to play at the next
Gordon: I am hoping this is not my last football game. I have been
playing football since sixth grade back in Traverse City. This is a
game that I love so much it would be hard for me to imagine that this
would be my last game. I am very passionate about football and want to
keep playing it as long as possible, so I am definitely going to work
my tail off to play at the next level.
NE: What are your thoughts about Max Bullough and his future?
Gordon: Max already is a great player and he is going to have a
fantastic career here at State. He came in early and learned the
system very quickly; in fact quicker then most. He is big, strong and
has speed and has a knack for the ball. Plus he is from Traverse
City, so he has that going for him.
NE: Max, as a freshman who saw quite a bit of action, what has this
season meant to you?
Max Bullough: It has been an awesome experience to be a part of this
special season. Plus I learned so much that this season has really
helped to set me up for the next three years.
NE: Certainly learning from Greg Jones and Eric Gordon had to be a
Bullough: Yes, it has been very beneficial to come into a program
where these two guys have been starting for four years. I learned a
lot from them and I knew whatever they were doing and saying was
right. These guys were the best linebacking duo in the country. So as
I watched them this season in practice and at the games I know if I
can emulate their play then my play will be fool-proof in following in
NE: Now you are the third generation Bullough at MSU, plus your moms
family (father, brothers) were stars at Notre Dame and MSU. Is there
pressure carrying on the Bullough legacy, and do you get a lot of
Bullough: I do not feel any pressure, at least not from my family. I
put pressure on myself to excel and succeed. My uncle Chuck is
coaching at UCLA so he cant get to my games, and my parents have my
younger brothers and sisters back in Traverse City active in sports,
so they get to as many games as possible. My dad doesnt push anything
onto me, but he definitely is there to give me advice when I ask for
NE: What are your thoughts about playing in your first bowl game and
going against Alabama?
Bullough: Of course I am excited about going to Orlando and playing in
my first bowl game. We have one goal and that is coming home with a
win. This will be a real test for us.
NE: What are your thoughts about next year with so many starters
coming back? And you will certainly be a starter yourself.
Bullough: I am very excited. Certainly the expectations will be high
and for me personally, I came here to be a starter and contribute to
championship teams, so I am looking forward to this spring and getting
to work on next year.
Michigan State plays the University of Alabama on Saturday, January 1
in the Capital One Bowl at 1 pm on ESPN.