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Elsworth, Spartans ready for Rose Bowl run



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August 21, 2013 - Chances are, when the Michigan State Spartans take the field for the 2013 Big 10 season the legions of fans will once again hear a common name on defense—Kyler Elsworth.

Elsworth, a 6'1", 220-pound, 2009 Goodrich High School graduate, is a fifth-year senior for the Spartans and although he likely won't start, he will get plenty of playing time.

While his primary position is as the backup middle linebacker to defensive captain Max Bullough, Elsworth could also see time at the outside linebacker spots. He appeared in all 13 games for the Spartans last season and has accumulated 59 tackles and three sacks in 40 career games.

"There's nothing set in stone regarding me starting at linebacker, but playing behind Bullough an All-American is going to be tough," said Elsworth following practice in East Lansing on Wednesday. "But I have to be ready to play in short yardage, third and long and goal line defenses. I'm going to have more playing time and will continue to play on special teams. However, I'm going to push for a starting position.."

Elsworth had taken aim at linebacker on defense or fullback on offense for the Green and White when he walked on for Spartan Head Coach Mark Dantonio. Elsworth was a red-shirt freshman at MSU in 2009 on the practice teams in his first year, then made all the special teams—kick off, kick return, punt block, all the returns. Despite full wrestling scholarship offers at Indiana University, the University of North Carolina, and Michigan State University, as well as a handful of partial scholarships, including the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Elsworth opted to step off the mat and onto the green field of Spartan Stadium.

Elsworth played in all the MSU games while on the team, mostly on special teams and some at the linebacker position. He was named the Big Ten special teams player of the week in 2011 after a second quarter punt block that was recovered for a touchdown as the Michigan State Spartans went on to slip by then-No. 4 Wisconsin, 37-31. That same year he was given a scholarship at MSU.

"A key game will be the at Nebraska on Nov. 16 at Memorial Stadium," he said. "We have not beat them in the four years I've played. If that does not get your blood boiling, nothing will. Honestly I don't want to graduate without beating the Cornhuskers—I'm circling that game."

While beating much hated state rivals the University of Michigan three times during his stint at MSU is near the top of great memories, Elsworth said the outstanding character of his teammates is etched in his mind.

Elsworth recalls that during the Youngstown State game in September 2011 senior Joel Foreman, an All-Big Ten performer who had started 22 straight games, asked the coaches to let senior Arthur Ray take his place. According to news reports, Ray underwent chemotherapy and had surgery to remove a tumor near the calf on his left leg. An infection later forced him to leave school. He had been medically disqualified so as not to count against Michigan State's scholarship limits, but he received a waiver that allowed him to return to practice that spring.

"Joel gave up his starting spot on the team for Arthur," he said. "I will never forget that—it was not about him, he did what was right."

"My senior year is bittersweet. On the one hand, I'm excited to graduate," he laughed. "But as a senior there's only so many games to play and our goal as a team is the Rose Bowl in January. So far this summer it's been nice going into (training) camp and knowing what to expect. As a freshman they throw things at you—it's a different atmosphere from high school. Now as a senior it's a different stage."

Elsworth will graduate in May with a degree in zoology and is planning a career in the medical profession. However, football is not out of the question for him.

"So far I have not been contacted by a professional team, but I will not let that stop me. It's possible and as long as I have a shot at making the NFL I'm going to keep trying. This is going to be a big year for me."

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