Senior defensive end Marcus Rush will see his 49th career start on Saturday against Ohio State, matching the MSU record
For all of his career, senior defensive end Marcus Rush has lived in the shadows of the guy opposite of him.
Whether it be five star All-American recruit William Gholston or NFL first round projection junior defensive end Shilique Calhoun, Rush has always flew under the radar earning the title “silent but deadly” by one teammate.
Regardless of not receiving as much attention from national and local media as his teammates, Rush has built a resume at MSU that some would consider untouchable. This week against No. 13 Ohio State, Rush will match the record for most career starts in MSU history, helping the Spartans become a household name during the process.
Mix in Rush’s ties to the state of Ohio, and Saturday serves as an impactful day for the iron man of MSU football.
Evolving over time
Not many current Spartans can say they saw substantial playing time as a freshman, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Rush not only has been a regular name in the starting lineup, but a regular force on the field for MSU. During his career in green and white, Rush has been selected to multiple freshman All-American teams, All-Big Ten teams and is once again making noise this season.
The Cincinnati, Ohio native was recently selected by ESPN and Phil Steele for its Midseason All-Big Ten second team with stats already nearly better than last season. Through the first eight games, Rush is only two tackles shy of last year’s number with 28 already this season. He also has recorded 6.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and one forced fumble this season.
Since his first start back in 2011, Rush said he has been able to continue to learn more about the game, ultimately leading to his latest success now as a fifth-year senior.
“Freshman year, you’re new to the whole experience, you’re really focusing on trying to learn where you’re going, what you’re supposed to be doing, how you’re supposed to be acting and trying to learn the plays,” Rush said. “As you get older you start learning the system, everything just comes second nature and that’s really when you start playing better because you’re playing faster.”
Rush’s progression over the years not only has played a role on his current ability on the field, but also on the improvement of his teammates.
Multiple players talked about the impact Rush has had on the progression of his defensive teammates, but none have been more affected than his defensive end partner — junior Shilique Calhoun.
Through the past two seasons, Calhoun has received a lot of national attention as one of the best defensive ends in the country, even recently being named a semifinalist for the 2014 Chuck Bednarik Award for most outstanding defensive player. However, Calhoun doesn’t take all the credit for his success, pointing to Rush as a primary reason for why he’s received his national accolades and recognition.
Calhoun said he was watching Rush on film as recently as last week, and considers learning from Rush’s tendencies and past experiences as a key factor in molding himself into the player he is today.
“I’ve watched him since my freshman year on campus and he’s been someone I’ve tried to model my game after,” Calhoun said. “He’s definitely someone I’ve watched over the years and I’ve been thankful to be on the same team as him because he’s taught me a lot.”
Over the last four years MSU’s defense has seen the likes of Spartan legends Max Bullough, Darqueze Dennard, Jerel Worthy and Denicos Allen but none have seen more playing time than Rush.
This Saturday against Ohio State, Rush will etch his name into the Spartan record books with what will be his 49th career start. The game will match the record for most career starts at MSU with former linebacker Eric Gordon and offensive lineman Joel Foreman, with only one more start in the final few games giving Rush the record all to himself.
Rush has been part of the Spartan starting lineup since his redshirt freshman season, appearing in four rivalry games against Michigan, two Big Ten Championship Games and three bowl game victories, including last year’s Rose Bowl.
When looking at the record, Rush said all of the starts came through hard work and being able to gain the trust from his coaches to keep him on the field throughout his career.
“It’s definitely an accomplishment,” Rush said. “It just kind of comes with the hard work and the toughness and making sure I’m doing my job each week. If I’m not doing my job or the coaches aren’t liking what I’m doing, obviously I wouldn’t be getting those starts so just that in itself. Just making sure I’m staying consistent.”
Rush added that staying healthy has played an obvious role in staying on the field.
Junior outside linebacker Darien Harris said at the beginning of the season head coach Mark Dantonio talked about the record with players as something to look forward to. On Tuesday, Dantonio said Rush’s contribution during his time at MSU has been substantial, especially in big games like this upcoming week’s matchup against the Buckeyes.
“He’s a heart and soul type of guy,” Dantonio said. “Extremely tough guy, plays very well, plays with his hands very well, is a playmaker on the field, made a lot of plays for us throughout the years and in big games he has risen up and played extremely well.”
Even from before he was sporting green and white on Saturdays, those close to Rush said he never needed to be the “life of the party.”
During Rush’s time at Archbishop Moeller High School, John Rodenberg served as his head coach for his junior and senior seasons, and considered it a treat to coach Rush. Rodenberg said Rush was always a quiet guy but served as a leader through his actions on and off the field.
“It was kind of funny because he was a fun guy to be around but he wasn’t that class clown or didn’t need to be the life of the party,” Rodenberg said. “He was just a guy who commands so much respect because you see him in the weight room and see what he does on the field and that really attracts a lot of people to him.”
While Rush is known as a quiet guy when it comes to talking to the media, that isn’t always the case when he is in the locker room.
Harris has been Rush’s neighbor in the locker room since he came to MSU, and said the side of Rush fans get to see isn’t the same way he acts around the team.
Harris said Rush never brings a bad mood into the locker room and helps relax the guys through jokes and his upbeat attitude toward the game of football.
“He’s a really fun guy to be around, never in a bad mood,” Harris said. “Always a cheery guy, always makes jokes so he’s really not that quiet around us which is really good because you need leaders like that to be outspoken and he’s definitely one of the top leaders on this team.”
Playing for respect
Saturday’s matchup against Ohio State already has added significance, but any time Rush goes up against the Buckeyes, it becomes personal.
Rush was heavily recruited by a number of Big Ten schools during his process, earning scholarship offers from Michigan, Nebraska and Purdue among many others. But Ohio State never showed much interest in the three-star defensive end recruit.
Rodenberg said during the recruiting process Rush never received a lot of attention from the Buckeyes because he wasn’t the prototypical size for a defensive end that Ohio State was looking for at the time.
“They stayed away from him,” Rodenberg said. “Ohio State wanted the biggest defensive end as they could get and I’m sure that turned him off from Ohio State.”
Combined with growing up in the state of Ohio, this week serves as one of Rush’s most anticipated games of the year. Rush holds a 2-1 record against the Buckeyes and said he always gets excited when the Scarlet and Gray are next up on the schedule.
“For myself especially, being an Ohioan it’s definitely something more special,” Rush said. “Whenever this game comes up in the week I’m extremely excited.”