Fourteenth Annual Meet the Spartans
Pumps Up Fans and Players
EAST LANSING - Walking in to the sound of sportscasters and fans calling the last play of the 2015 Michigan State vs. Michigan game.
The play that got the Spartans the win.
The play that no one believed had happened, but the play that no one could stop screaming with excitement about.
That was what fans encountered as they approached Spartan Stadium at the 14th Annual Meet the Spartans on Tuesday, August 16.
Fans of all ages lined up to get their favorite Spartan’s autograph, and there was only one way these fans were received: a smile.
“Michigan State is my dream school, and so I plan on going here in a couple of years,” fan Mosleh Aioiash said.
Michigan State football players had charisma pouring out of them as they high-fived, fist-bumped, shook hands, smiled and signed autographs for each fan.
“(My favorite part is) just seeing our loyal fans, how much they bleed green and white, how much they love Michigan State,” Wide receiver RJ Shelton said.
Lines curved around each part of the building for each set of players, but nothing compared to the line formed by the beloved Spartan head coach Mark Dantonio.
“I’m most excited about meeting Mark Dantonio,” fan Mikaila Orlowski said. “I’m really excited, because I can’t wait for him to sign my helmet. We got here at two o’clock and we’ve been sitting (in line) for about an hour and a half.”
It wasn’t just teenagers and students who gathered their gear to be signed, parents wanted to instill the love of Spartan nation into their little ones.
“It’s exciting for them to come in and kind of get, you know, anticipation of the upcoming season,” fan Stacy Fernandez, who had four kids with her, said. “It’s crowded. It seems like every year there’s more people. It’s fun and the kids enjoy it.”
Some fans, like Michigan State alumni Erin Eschels, got the love for the Spartans instilled in them by seeing their parents cheer on their favorite team.
“It’s cool to see all of the little kids wearing the green and white, because I was wearing green and white when I was a little kid, so start them young, you know?” Eschels said.
But getting signatures wasn’t the only attraction.
Fans were also able to dress up in a jersey and gear, fans could go down on the field to take pictures and meet the cheerleaders.
“The cutest thing was when little girls came up and held our pompons and shook them around,” freshman cheerleader Brooke Allen said. “You could see their face light up about it.”
Aside from those activities, Spartan fans themselves were also dressed to impress.
A fan in particular, Merrill Shelden, wore a 28-year-old bib made by his wife, for the 1988 Rose Bowl.
“My wife made the bibs on our way to the Rose Bowl, still was sowing them on the play. That was the first time I wore them,” Shelden said.
He now wears it to every game, and not only that, but he hasn’t missed a Meet the Spartans since it was created.
For others, it was an event to say farewell to the university they attended.
“I just graduated from Michigan State, I’m still working in East
Lansing and I’m a big football fan,” Eschels said. “I’m not ready to leave East Lansing yet, so I just wanted to come and meet the players before I move somewhere else and represent Michigan State from across the country.”
From the love the fans gave to the players to the respect they had for each other, even police officers and the security team got some of the emotions of the day.
“We actually got to sing a couple of autographs,” Michigan State University police officer Mike Cantrell said. “We’re not football players, but the appreciation the kids have for the police and the parents, it makes it a lot of fun.”
It was a day for autographs, pictures, but more importantly, memories to kick off the season.
And what can Spartan nation expect from their team?
“You’re going to see a team that’s determined, ready to make a statement and, you know, go back-to-back, because that’s just the goal that we have,” Shelton said. “We have high goals here, and there’s high standards set here at Michigan State.”
Back-to-back would put the Spartans at another Big Ten Championship and in the College Football Playoffs, and what Spartan fans hope for on October 29: another exciting win against the Wolverines.