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Stanton strictly striving for success on gridiron

April 7, 2003
MSU redshirt freshman quarterback Drew Stanton throws the ball while junior quarterback Damon Dowdell watches during football practice Wednesday. Both are in a battle for the starting quarterback job.

Letting go of a first love is extremely difficult.

MSU quarterback Drew Stanton had to decide on his first love - baseball - or a great opportunity - to be the starting quarterback for MSU in the fall.

"I'd love to be able to play baseball," he said. "But the timing was just right for me to concentrate on football. I wanted to seize the moment and play as well as I could. And I keep praying I could be the starting quarterback in the fall."

The redshirt freshman said his decision to hit the gridiron - not the diamond - was a difficult one as MSU manager Ted Mahan fought hard to keep Stanton on his team.

Stanton is featured in the MSU baseball team's media guide where it states he was primed to "see some time out of the bullpen" for Mahan. And though it would have been a man-sized job, Stanton contemplated being a two-sport star.

"I just kept thinking, 'Can I do both?'" he said. "But realistically there was no way I could pull that off."

Mahan said he would have liked Stanton on his team for his strong arm, but he understands Stanton's decision to play football.

And instead of throwing strikes to catchers, Stanton's been throwing strikes to wide receivers.

The Farmington Hills native is having an exceptional spring. Stanton has completed 14-of-20 passes, accounting for 171 yards and three scores in the Spartans' two scrimmages. Stanton completed his first seven passes and led the team on two scoring drives in an 8-of-10 performance March 29.

"Drew's learning just like the other quarterbacks are," head coach John L. Smith said. "And just like the other guys he's got a lot more work to do."

Sophomore wide receiver Agim Shabaj serves as a calming influence on the quarterback.

The two hooked up numerous times while playing together at Farmington Hills' Harrison High School and are excited to have that chance on a bigger stage.

"It's kind of a comfort zone to have him here," Stanton said. "If I get in a jam, I can just go to him and he helps me out."

Shabaj said the feeling is mutual.

"Me and him have this sort of connection on the field," he said. "He can read me, and I can read him. That comfort zone is always there - on the field and off."

Both are in the early stages of learning Smith's spread offense, and their chemistry could show in the fall. Even though Stanton feels the offense is built for his style of play, he said it still can be overwhelming at times.

"It's a lot different when people are coming at you in a game situation," he said. "Then you've got guys running all sorts of routes. I've never seen an offense like this."

But Stanton said he is more comfortable this spring than he was on the scout team last fall. And he said he has more time to be a student of the offense.

And in junior Damon Dowdell and senior Jeff Smoker, Stanton also has two quarterbacks with game experience from which to learn.

Stanton said they have helped each other with hopes that each can have some measure of success this season. But the competition is still there.

"I'm going out there to win a spot," Stanton said. "If you think you're only good enough to be second best, then you shouldn't be out there."

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