I had a chance to tour the Skandalaris Football Building on my visit back to MSU for the spring football game, just me and a friend inside - apart from a bunch of recruits. We didn't talk to them (heck, I don't think we really made eye contact), but it was interesting to observe how they went through the building.
For those who haven't been inside, the place is palatial. The national championship trophies sit at the front. On the walls are photos of the glory days, past and present. The skill trophies, including Charles Rogers' Biletnikoff as the nation's top wide receiver, stand proud in their own cases. The center even has an elevator shaft shaped like a football.
That was all fine well and good, but the thing that really caught these recruits' eyes was the helmet display. Each NFL team's helmet is on the wall above the names of every Spartan who played for them. The kids lingered there, one eying the Pittsburgh Steelers segment, another fixated on the Bears.
It was an instructive moment. For all the selling point of State - the Michigan and Notre Dame rivalries, solid academics, the chance at a bowl game - the best chance to land your average recruit is to convince him that this is the best place he can go if he wants to play on Sundays.
Which brings us to this past weekend's NFL draft. More specifically, how just one Spartan was drafted - Javon Ringer in the 5th round to Tennessee. QB Brian Hoyer, ranked as the number four QB in many draft previews, now sits as ESPN's #8 best guy not drafted (he was signed as a free agent to the Patriots).
But keep in mind, MSU isn't selling kids on John L. Smith's recruiting prowess. They're selling the new sheriff in town, Mark Dantonio. And at last check, Cincinnati (his former school) had six kids drafted.
Which brings us back to those kids and those helmets. You could see it in the way their faces lit up. Maybe, they must have thought, just maybe, if I went here I'd have a shot.