Cousins completes every call from TV booth
College Football Share

Cousins completes every call from TV booth

Michigan State's all-time winningest quarterback returned home again for the BTN spring game broadcast

Photo: Kirk Cousins is entering his fourth NFL season. Below, Cousins from an earlier spring game broadcast and playing for the Spartans.

Kirk Cousins, the NFL quarterback and Captain Kirk of Michigan State’s revival seasons, demonstrated again he can command a TV booth while working the Spartans’ Green and White spring game Saturday as a Big Ten Network analyst.

What once was considered a treat when Cousins first was assigned to work the BTN broadcast for his alma mater has become part of the spring game routine. Whoever has to succeed him has been set up to let down fans watching a future telecast.

Cousins, of course, at age 26 is more interested in proving he can command an NFL huddle as he prepares for his fourth season with Washington’s pro franchise. But whenever the end of his career arrives, it’s obvious he can make a seamless transition to TV – assuming, that is, the Renaissance man and author of his 2013 book “Game Changer” doesn’t have more ambitious plans in mind.

Plenty of former college and pro players can explain the game but to elucidate it in a TV broadcast is another league. Cousins does his homework, he articulates in a manner that satisfies football aficionados and novices and he has credibility that radiates through the camera lenses.

No TV director has to remind him in his earpiece to stick to the game as he wanders off into tangents or celebrates his own career.

However, when Cousins was asked about himself, he humbly showed the touch of a pass lofted for an over-the-shoulder catch snared in stride. Play-by-play man George Blaha transitioned the conversation as the TV screen showed NFL jerseys of former Michigan State players active in the NFL hanging in the Duffy Daugherty Building/Skandalaris Center, including Cousins’ Washington jersey.

“That was a dream,” Cousins said. “I remember many, many days walking through the Skandaleris Building and seeing pictures of NFL players. That was always a dream. Could I make it to the NFL? I still pinch myself when I realize I’m going into my fourth year in the NFL.”

Another comment following a 14-yard end-around-run by senior wide receiver Macgarrett Kings Jr. was the equivalent to a 20-yard rope that NFL quarterbacks must be able to throw. Cousins mixed in praise with a subtle admonishment, referring to Kings’ recent second suspension for an alcohol-related arrest.

“Macgarrett Kings Jr. is special player. He can make people miss. He can put his foot in the ground and change direction. This guy needs to be at practice, he needs to be getting reps. He needs to be focused, to be disciplined. If he can do that, develop that, that’s one more weapon to add to Spartans’ offense this fall. They need him on the field both as a kick returner and offensive weapon at wide receiver. He can be difference-maker.”

For any Michigan State fans out of touch with spring football, Cousins’ broadcast analysis offered a crash course. Here are a few more pearls:

On senior wide receiver DeAnthony Arnett’s over-the-shoulder catch for 24 yards:

“You start with a perfect throw by Connor Cook. You can’t do it any better than that. He put it in the only spot you want it; great catch by DeAnthony Arnett. This is a guy, who is behind Aaron Burbridge, we need to step up. DeAnthony Arnett has been highly thought of. It’s time now to finally start making some plays and show what he is capable of.”

On junior defensive end Evan Jones’ interception of a screen pass:

“Heads up play by Evan Jones; the design of the play is to draw everybody to the right and then throw a screen backside much like they did earlier with Donovan Clark. It just didn’t work. Evan Jones stayed home. He was very aware. Tyler just assumed the play would be there and threw it somewhat blind and Evan made him pay.”

On junior Kevin Cronin, filling in for starting junior place-kicker Michael Geiger, hitting a 30-yard field goal after missing 45- and 47-yard  attempts:

“Being a kicker on a football field is very similar to being a golfer. Swinging that leg through is like swinging a golf club. Kickers often can be a head case – over-thinking or over-analyzing. It’s very important mentally to be in the right place.” 

On the offensive line:

“This will be the best offensive line Michigan State has had since Coach (Mark) Dantonio arrived in East Lansing late in 2006. They have players all the way across the board. They have experience; they have guys who can play in the NFL. When you can start there, you give your running backs, quarterbacks and wide receivers a chance to be very successful.”

On the inexperienced offensive backfield:

“The running backs on this team are young, but they’re talented. You want more experience; you want to have an identity at the running back position. You want to know that you can lean on them like they’ve had with a Javon Ringer, a Le’Veon Bell, an Edwin Baker and more recently a Jeremy Langford. You just don’t have that luxury this year. You’re going to have to figure out your identity as time goes.”

On junior tight ends Josiah Price and Jamal Lyles:

“Josiah had a phenomenal year. He can do it all. He’s good in the run game, he has great hands and he’s made some incredible catches. The one knock on him is speed you’d love to see from a tight end but that’s getting picky. He can do everything you want. Between him and Jamal Lyles I think they have the tight ends they’re looking for.”

On the low-scoring 9-3 win by the White over the Green:

“If the offense is not putting up a lot of points, you've got to look at the other side of the ball. Maybe this defense is as good as advertised. Even though they were split up on the two teams, maybe there were that many players. Honestly, if I had to pick I'd rather have a dominant defense. That's ultimately how you win championships."

He also offered some NFL Draft talk after BTN sideline reporter Lisa Byington interviewed Trae Waynes, who is projected to follow Darqueze Dennard as Michigan State's second straight first-round cornerback

“When you run a 4.31 (40-yard time) you put yourself in rare category. That’s what Trae Waynes did a couple of months ago. I’m excited to see what happens in a week in the draft.”

And don't overlook this comment – offered before the attendance was officially announced as a spring-game record of 48,000 -- that succinctly made it clear Cousins has been around for a while as a Michigan State Man.

“Great crowd today. This is the ninth straight spring game I’ve been a part of – 10th if you count recruiting -- and this is the by far the biggest crowd we’ve had in those 10 years.”


Tom Shanahan

Tom Shanahan

Tom Shanahan is an award-winning sportswriter and the author of "Raye of Light". Tom spent the bulk of his career in San DIego writing for the San Diego Union-Tribune. He has covered NCAA Tournaments, Super Bowls, Rose Bowls, the NBA Finals and the World Series in a career that included writing for Voice of San Diego, the San Diego Hall of Champions and He contributes to the Detroit Free Press, Raleigh News & Observer,, and the National Football Foundation's Football Matters. He won multiple first-place awards from the San Diego Press Club and first place from the Copley News Service Ring of Truth Awards. The National Football Foundation/San Diego Chapter presented him its Distinguished American Award in 2003. USA Track and Field’s San Diego Chapter presented its President’s Award in 2000.

Raye of Light: Jimmy Raye, Duffy Daugherty, the integration of college football and the 1965-66 Michigan State Spartans. It explains Duffy Daugherty's pioneering role and debunks myths that steered recognition away from him to Bear Bryant.

By Tom Shanahan; Foreword by Tony Dungy; August Publications

David Maraniss, Pulitzer Prize winner and biographer: "History writes people out of the story. It's our job to write them back in."