Thursday, December 2, 2021

'Full circle moment': Family shares connection to MSU, UM rivalry

November 15, 2021
<p>Physiology senior Grant Zydeck, physiology senior Yamini Pandey, computational data science senior Abirami Varatharajan and kinesiology senior Parita Shah during the Michigan State vs. University of Michigan football at the Spartan Stadium on Oct. 30, 2021. Courtesy of Grant Zydeck.</p>

Physiology senior Grant Zydeck, physiology senior Yamini Pandey, computational data science senior Abirami Varatharajan and kinesiology senior Parita Shah during the Michigan State vs. University of Michigan football at the Spartan Stadium on Oct. 30, 2021. Courtesy of Grant Zydeck.

It was an eerily lonely fall night in the maternity ward at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak.

Soon-to-be parents Jeff Zydeck and his wife Royal Zydeck arrived at the hospital shortly after noon and were eager to meet their first child on Oct. 9, 1999.

A special day for the Zydecks

That day, also another college football Saturday, happened to be the biggest rivalry game of the season: the University of Michigan versus Michigan State.

“Where we were, there was no television,” Jeff said. “We were just there waiting like scared — it’s your first baby. We didn’t know what was going to happen next.”

Suddenly nurses and doctors rushed back into the maternity ward and told the Zydeck’s the news that MSU had taken home the win with a score of 34-31.

The Zydecks were ecstatic with the win—the couple first met while attending MSU and have always been strong fans, stemming from a legacy of MSU alumni in their family. The two met in Campbell Hall their sophomore year.

“After college, we stayed in touch and people start moving all over the country, and we both were living and working in Michigan,” Jeff said.

Later that night, the Zydecks' son, Grant Zydeck, had entered the world on Oct. 9, 1999. Until this year, 1999 was also the last time that U-M and MSU were both undefeated before playing each other.

“All the emotions … this combination of just unbelievable joy, happiness,” Jeff said. “You’re overwhelmed because you got this life now that you got to take care of.”

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Fostering relationships through a Spartan legacy

Throughout his childhood, Grant was heavily influenced to pursue medicine by his grandfather, alumnus Dr. Fred Zydeck, who graduated from the College of Veterinary School, or CVM, in 1966, as well as his mother, who also graduated from MSU and teaches middle school biology.

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Grant has firsthand watched his grandfather save the lives of several animals including a dog that collapsed from heatstroke and also releasing a golden retriever from the jaws of an alligator in Florida.

“Those actions really stick out in your mind,” Grant said. “He’s always been a huge inspiration to me. He paved his way through school himself and that was difficult to do back then.”

Dr. Zydeck recently received the Distinguished Veterinary Alumni Award from the CVM through his private small animal practice that he founded in Southfield, Michigan.

This past summer, Grant also volunteered as a summer camp counselor for a non-profit organization summer camp that helped adults with disabilities practice everyday activities and skill building at the Fowler Center in Tuscola County, Michigan.

“That was just such an amazing experience,” Grant said. “I got to create really really close bonds and friendships with people all over the world.”

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Coming back full circle

Grant, now a senior dual majoring in physiology and psychology, reflects on the 2021 rivalry game at the Spartan Stadium with his friends as they watched junior running back Kenneth Walker III make the comeback victory for MSU. 

“It was especially important for me because going into the game it was almost like a full circle moment,” Grant said. “I was just thinking, ‘Wow this happened on the night that I was born and here I am as a senior.’”

For Jeff, he was watching the unpredictable game at home with Royal and his parents.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Jeff said. “I especially couldn’t believe it knowing that Grant was born on Oct. 9, 1999 when U of M and MSU were both undefeated, both ranked and then here he is a senior, he’s at MSU at the game and history repeated itself.”

Both Big Ten ranked and undefeated teams versed each other to ultimately end in MSU defeating U-M: exactly something that happened 22 years ago when Grant was born.

Post undergraduate plans

With his influence from his grandfather and mother, Grant hopes to continue his education at MSU after receiving his undergraduate degree to pursue a career as a physician.

“MSU’s so incredibly special to me, and I would love to continue going to MSU’s MD or DO school,” Grant said. “To me, it would just be continuing my Spartan journey and just allowing this family presence to grow even more.”

Becoming a physician has always been Grant’s dream career, but there is a different aspect that keeps him fixed on his future.

“There were a lot of challenges this past summer but what I kept telling myself was to pursue my dream, and doctors face all kinds of struggles and all kinds of challenges but it’s really that goal to reach higher and to stay committed to a cause greater than yourself,” Grant said.

Bleed green in the Spartan Nation

As Grant finishes up his final year of undergrad, his father and he look back on why being a Spartan has been such a vital and meaningful part of their life to them.

“I think that I just have a lot of pride in being a Spartan and things I’ve done in my career,” Jeff said. “I don’t think people realize really how great of an institution Michigan State University is. I think you almost have to go there and experience it and then you get it.”

Similar to the Beaumont Tower’s northeast spike that is longer than the others representing Spartans to continue reaching higher for their goals, Grant feels that it defines him entirely in taking pride in being a Spartan.

To Grant, evolving as a Spartan isn’t just attending Michigan State for undergrad, but it includes much more.  

“I think to be a Spartan means two things to me,” Grant said. “It’s that reach for your dreams no matter what, that has always been instilled in me, and it’s also that sense of family. MSU, I’ll always appreciate and will always feel like a source for family to me and always just value that in real life.”

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