Spring game draws 48,000 people to Spartan Stadium
Kaden Moore stood on the practice fields behind the Duffy Daugherty Football Building with his friends and father Saturday morning, gazing star-struck at the players running various drills.
Kaden was one of the 1,700 attendees at the annual youth clinic, an event hosted by the football program to provide children age 8-12 an opportunity to participate in activities on the same field as their heroes.
Before the players strapped on their helmets for the annual spring Green and White game in front of the general public, they donned their jerseys and sweatpants, avoiding the cold while enjoying the time they had with the younger ones.
It wasn’t just the kids who got a kick out of meeting the likes of Shilique Calhoun and Connor Cook. The parents, with their cameras and autographed footballs held close at their sides, took in the 90 minutes of excitement while standing next to future NFL stars, including some local players from their hometown.
“Kevin Cronin is a Traverse City boy, so we taught him in school, and we got a picture with him,” Scott Moore of Elk Rapids said. “We know the Bullough family,, as well.”
The final drill held at the facility signaled the start of tailgating around Spartan Stadium, which gave many an excuse to grab the portable grill and cooler out of the garage after a long winter.
One of the many gatherings held in the south parking lot featured a bus painted all white.
A distinct feature of the bus was an ordinary stuffed animal — resembling a wolverine — placed beneath the front tire, symbolizing the rivalry with Michigan.
The ringleader of the tailgate, Lansing native Harriett Dean, a 1983 graduate of MSU, said her first time traveling to the stadium for a spring game was back in 1966, when the first tailgate was actually held on the literal tailgate of a station wagon.
“Things have sort of progressed from that,” Dean said. “It became a family tradition. My first regular season game (was) when I was 9 years old, which started my love for MSU football. We’ve had season tickets since 1969, so we’ve been around for a long time.”
A couple rows to the east of Dean was a pitched green and white awning, shading the four people standing underneath it from the beaming sun.
Samantha Mahaffy, a communications senior and planner of the small get-together, said her frequent trips to football games began when she was still in high school when her cousin, Kyler Elsworth, was on the team.
“It made the Rose Bowl a little more interesting,” Mahaffy said when her family first heard about Elsworth starting as linebacker. “It was awesome and really exciting for our family.”
After attending every road game for the past two years, Mahaffy isn’t afraid to show her true colors on other schools’ campuses.
“It’s really different because you’re going into enemy territory,” Mahaffy said. “But it’s cool. People are usually pretty nice. It’s been good, like if you forget your tent, they’ll ask you to join their party.”
Dean and Mahaffy were two of the 48,000 spectators who made their way inside the gates to get a tease of the upcoming season.
The White team would go on to defeat the Green team, 9-3, playing in front of the seventh-largest spring crowd in the nation this year, behind Michigan’s 60,000 earlier this month.
Dantonio and the Spartan Brass made it clear getting a crowd of 50,000 or more was the next step toward validating the program, which prompted the hashtag #Get50.
When asked if Dantonio was out of line asking for 50,000 fans at the stadium, Matt Dunseith of Sterling Heights said where MSU is located and the current time of year makes it difficult to expect that much.
He even disputed the total amount of Buckeye fans who watched their spring game at the Horseshoe.
“Ohio State announced 99,000, when you look them up on TV, you don’t see more than 30,000,” Dunseith said. “I think it’s tough to get that many fans to a spring game with so much going on at this time of year in the Midwest.”
Dunseith also got the chance to see some of the action at the clinic with his son.
Five years ago, when he first took his son to the event, he said there was nowhere near the amount of kids who participated that year in comparison to this year.
“Very busy. Packed, but it was good,” Dunseith said. “Good for the kids, good for the adults, getting close to the players and coaches, the whole nine yards.”