ATHENS, Ga. — Michael Bennett found out during Georgia’s Outback Bowl practices on campus what not to wear to a wide receiver meeting: his Michigan State shorts.
Assistant coach, Tony Ball, called him out in front of his teammates, who are preparing to face the Spartans in the Jan 2 Outback Bowl.
“Coach Ball made me get up in front of everybody and was like ‘What the crap are you wearing?’ ” Bennett said. “I didn’t realize I put them on. That wasn’t really smart. I’ll throw those away.”
Bennett grew up rooting for the Spartans. His father Jon graduated from Michigan State in 1985 and his parents got married in East Lansing and renewed their vows on their 10th anniversary on campus. His mother Beth and father were campus pastors there for five years and Michael said he’s been up to East Lansing “a ton.”
Only three years ago, Michael Bennett wore green and white when he sat in the Michigan State section in Orlando when Georgia beat the Spartans, 24-12, in the Capital One Bowl.
“I was all Spartan then,” he said. “It’s pretty weird now.”
Now Michael, a redshirt freshman receiver who has 31 catches for 316 yards and five touchdowns, will be trying to deal Sparty another bowl loss in Tampa.
“Blood is a lot thicker than your alma mater status,” said Jon Bennett, who hails from Farmington, Mich., outside Detroit, while Beth, a Central Michigan grad, is from Blissfield, between Ann Arbor and Toledo. “We’re red and black through and through now.”
After living in Georgia for 16 years now (the family lives in Alpharetta), Jon Bennett said he’s not quite as big of a Spartans backer as he used to be.
“We still hate the Wolverines, we still hate the Buckeyes,” he said.
Jon Bennett, a financial consultant for pastors, churches and ministries, considers it a “novelty” that it’s a Bulldogs-Spartans bowl.
Michael Bennett changed his allegiance when the Bulldogs warmed to him.
“I always thought Georgia fans were kind of annoying,” he said. “It was just ‘Georgia this, Georgia that’ and you’re just like stop it. You kind of rooted against them almost, but as soon as they’re offering a full-ride scholarship you like them a lot.”
Bennett had about 25 scholarship offers, but Michigan State wasn’t one of them despite attending the program’s junior day in 2009.
“You never know, man,” Bennett said when asked what he would have done if the Spartans offered. “I’m a big Spartan fan so who knows? It worked out this way so I’m really glad it happened.”
Jon Bennett said that he “threw some hints” at Michigan State assistant coach Dave Warner, who recruited the Atlanta area, about his ties to the school, but that Michael was told that he was considered a “second-tier” receiver on their recruiting board.
“That ticked him off,” his father said.
After Bennett attended a one-day camp at Georgia before his senior season, the Bulldogs were the first SEC school to offer him a scholarship, in June of that year.