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This blog has some required watching, so I'm asking everyone to click here and learn why Michigan State's Kirk Cousins came into the season as a legend in the first-ever Legends Division. Cousins was such a hit at last summer's Big Ten Media Days that you'll notice at the end of the video that such coaches as Mark Dantonio, Brady Hoke and Bo Pelini all rise to their feet and give Cousins what he truly deserved at a kickoff luncheon speech - a standing ovation for representing all Big Ten Conference football players the way all college football players should be represented ... as someone who embraces his sport - and his passion - as a privilege rather than any kind of entitlement.
Joe Paterno, the king of the hill for Division I coaches, gave Cousins a standing O. Tom Osborne was in Chicago that day, too, and Nebraska's athletic director joined everyone on their feet to salute a worthy message and the one who delivered it. Later, Osborne showed 2½ minutes of that nearly 8-minute Cousins' speech to more than 600 Nebraska student-athletes at an early-morning meeting, explaining why Nebraska was "all in" as a first-year member of the Big Ten, competitively and culturally.
There are tons of things about college football I do not know, but one thing I think I know is this: Sometime next Saturday afternoon, when Cousins exits Memorial Stadium, Nebraska fans will applaud a leader that Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples describes as the face of the Big Ten, plus his teammates and everything they stand for. The Spartans, after all, have a regimen and a process very similar to Nebraska's - all-out physicality, every play, every day.
Whether a still young Nebraska team can apply some brakes on that runaway train that Cousins engineers is the question of the week and maybe even the season. The senior that led Michigan State to an 11-1 regular-season record last year is coming off the most incredible triple play he's ever executed, directing back-to-back-to-back wins over Ohio State (10-7), Michigan (28-14) and Wisconsin (37-31). That last win, of course, came Saturday night on a game-ending Cousins' Hail Mary pass to Keith Nichol, a quarterback that Cousins beat out but still cares about and motivates.
Nebraska Has a Chance to Redeem Itself
Michigan State will baske in national media attention all week long, and Cousins and his teammates rightfully have earned that kind of visibility. But don't expect the Huskers to back down from a challenge that plays right into their hands, according to former Texas Tech Coach Mike Leach, who said just that Saturday night on national satellite radio. Leach believes Nebraska is much better than it showed at Wisconsin and now has a golden chance to redeem itself after the disappointment in Madison.
Suddenly, Saturday's 11 a.m. kickoff in Lincoln has some serious Big Ten amp for ESPN. If the Huskers beat the Spartans Saturday - and Michigan beats Purdue in Ann Arbor and Iowa wins at Minnesota - four teams will be tied with 3-1 records for the Legends Division lead. That makes this the game of the season in Lincoln, at least this week, and I'm convinced Memorial Stadium will show affection for Cousins, one of the greatest leaders college football has ever known.
Remember, a Penn State All-American that made an acrobatic touchdown catch in the South end zone once got major cheers from Memorial Stadium, which also applauded Bobby Bowden when Florida State upset Nebraska in Lincoln. That's why I believe Husker fans will show their appreciation for Cousins and his teammates, win or lose.
In between Saturday morning's opening kickoff and their customary postgame sportsmanship behavior, however, I believe Big Red fans also will generate a noise level louder than Cousins has ever heard ... the ultimate sign of respect for a great competitor that will experience Lincoln for the first time ... and the last time.
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Voices from Husker Nation
"I just wanted to take a little time and let you know what a great article was written about Kirk Cousins. As an MSU alum and a Big Ten/College Football junkie, it is refreshing and rare to see a kid as well put together upstairs as Kirk is. The guy is as good as they come. To see another school recognize this is even more rare. Here in Metro-Detroit, we still have our 'Little Sister's' fans crying over rough play. I respect Big Red and cannot wait for the game Saturday. I am really excited to see a game in Lincoln soon, as I know I will be greeted with friendly handshakes and warm smiles. Good luck this weekend Big Red, and let's hope we don't need to pray on the last play of the game... Hopefully we are taking a knee instead. :)" With Spartan Pride, Chris Stepanian-Bennett, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
"I trust that our tradition of showing respect for our opponents will continue as the Spartans visit on Saturday in what is shaping up to be a fantastic matchup. When there was a move afoot to put up a sign on the stadium proclaiming ourselves as college football's greatest fans, I opposed it. The reason is simple. The only thing that we can do is behave with class and dignity. If others want to laud that behavior, it makes me very proud and reinforces in me the importance of proper conduct. To boast about how great we are would undermine the very essence of what we believe ourselves to be. Many years ago, I heard a football player "It ain't bragging if you can do it." That is ridiculous. Bragging is simply boorish behavior and has nothing to do with a person's ability, only with their self-aggrandizement, and I hope that we do not ever sink to that level. Go Big Red!" Rich MacMillan, Shorewood, Illinois
"What an inspirational speech by a wise and humble leader. I can see why Tom Osborne shared it with every student-athlete in our program. It sends a powerful message, especially when so much attention seems to focus on what's wrong rather than on what's right with college football. Wish I was one of the fortunate fans that will be sitting in the stadium Saturday for what could be a classic game. If I were, I would applaud Kirk Cousins and his teammates when they walk off the field, win or lose. That's what sets Nebraska fans apart from others." Rich Grant, Phoenix, Arizona
Thanks for a great article about a great young man. Robert Lloyd, Ft. Myers, Florida
"What a great idea to share Kirk Cousins' speech on your website. It's a "feel good" speech, and after boos by the home crowd at Memorial Stadium and even words being exchanged, we could all use a little "feel good" right now. Cousins' speech puts into perspective what we all seem to forget. We're all privileged to be a part of this game in our own small way, and we all need to enjoy the moment. I think we all need a group hug in Huskerland." Jim Johnston, Mitchell, South Dakota
"How refreshing it is for one school to honor another for having the ability to communicate something that benefits everyone. I'm an MSU fan, and I think Nebraska's views can teach this entire conference a few lessons on sportsmanship and basic civility. Thank you. Joe Williams, Detroit, Michigan
"I watched the Kirk Cousins video, and all I can say is "WOW"! This young man gets it, proving his own point that much is required from those to whom much has been given. Thanks for allowing that impressive leader to share his wisdom." Steve Curtis, Omaha, Nebraska