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MSU's Rison tries to follow in father's footsteps

Associated Press • Feb 2, 2017 at 1:21 AM

When it comes to legacies, walking around with the name Rison on the back of your uniform is as big as they come at Michigan State.

For freshman Hunter Rison, that's reality as he makes his way through his first few weeks as a college student. As a Spartan football recruit — the son of Michigan State great Andre Rison — there are daily reminders of what's expected of him.

Instead of running from that pressure, the younger Rison is embracing it in an effort to live up to everything his dad accomplished as a Spartan.

"It's spectacular," Rison said Wednesday, his eyes lighting up and a smile stretching across his face. "You see him in the window of the Hall of Fame every day you go to the Smith Center and it's crazy. But it's just a reminder to of what I'm here to do and I love him. He worked hard and that's how he got there so I'm going to try and do the same thing."

Hunter Rison spoke at Michigan State's National Signing Day news conference, one that saw the Spartans bring in 22 scholarship players as well as one that will go on scholarship next January and a handful of walk-ons.

Rison is already enrolled, as are defensive back Josiah Scott and tight end Jack Camper. But it's Rison that's the star of the group.

The four-star recruit from Ann Arbor Skyline had more than 1,700 yards receiving and 19 touchdowns in two high school seasons with Skyline and was a Rivals250 recruit.

And considering his dad is one of the best in the history of the program, there's plenty of expectations.

"You don't want to put too much pressure on a legacy, too much expectation," wide receivers coach Terrence Samuel said. "But what he's showing now, I'm giddy. I'm happy.

"I don't think I'm overstepping my bounds by saying he's gonna be pretty damn good."

If he comes at all close to what his father did, he'll be damn good and then some. Andre Rison was an All-American receiver who helped the Spartans win the Big Ten in 1987 and reach the Rose Bowl. He still ranks among MSU's career leaders in receiving yards (second), 100-yard receiving games (second), yards per catch (third with 20.49 avg.), receptions (fourth) and TD receptions (tied for fourth with 20).

The elder Rison also lettered in track (1986) and basketball (1988) while at Michigan State, finishing second in the long jump at the 1986 Big Ten Indoor Championships. He gained true fame as a standout in the NFL, making the Pro Bowl five times.

His role now is as his son's biggest supporter.

"I call him every night and we talk," Hunter Rison said. "He keeps me level-headed and I love him. I just know that I have to work my hardest and do what I'm supposed to do and day by day, something good will come out of it. That's what he did when he came here as a kid so I take the same mentality and good things will happen."

Coach Mark Dantonio is counting on that work ethic to show through.

"He's obviously a legacy here with his father having played here," Dantonio said. "But you make your own way. You make your own way as a young person. ... He's impressed us from day one in his abilities in what he will bring to this program."

Considering the Spartans entered the offseason with only five scholarship receivers, it was a position of need in the recruiting class. Rison was joined by Cody White of Walled Lake Western, C.J. Hayes of Bowling Green, Ky., and Laress Nelson of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Having already enrolled, Rison has a jump on the rest of the class, but Samuel sees something different in him. It's not at all unlike what he saw a year ago in Donnie Corley, who went on to catch 33 passes for 453 yards and three touchdowns.

"When I saw him play I knew that he played with passion," Samuel said. "You saw him toss his helmet around being upset with the season they were having. So I knew he was passionate about it. But when he got here and that first day of early morning running he was trying to push through more than what I've seen from high school guys. Now you're seeing him run and he's out there pushing it.

"I expect a lot out of him."

Those expectations have a good chance of being met fairly early for Rison, something he has been looking forward to since before he arrived on campus.

"I looked up to R.J. Shelton and he was really a mentor to me and we talked a lot," Rison said of the former Spartans receiver. "He told me if I come and work hard and do what I'm supposed to do I can easily play as a freshman and I take that to heart. When spring ball comes up I've got to show what I can do."

Winter workouts have just begun, but Rison is already showing what he can do. Whether that translates into the career his dad had remains to be seen, but the early returns are positive.

Rison hopes he can live up to the name and he is really pushing to wear No. 1 like his father. The jersey is still to come. The production will be the key.

"His ceiling – there's no roof on it," Samuel said.

Michigan State 2017 recruiting class

PLAYER POS. Ht./Wt. Hometown

Weston Bridges RB 5-11/190 Akron, Ohio

Jack Camper TE 6-4/225 Bradenton, Fla.

Matt Carrick OL 6-4/320 Massillon, Ohio

Darien Clemons LB 6-1/214 Piqua, Ohio

Matt Dotson TE 6-5/235 Cincinnati, Ohio

Emmanuel Flowers CB 6-2/177 Chino Hills, Calif.

Noah Harvey LB 6-3/220 Hartland, Wis.

C.J. Hayes ATH 6-3/200 Bowling Green, Ky.

Connor Heyward ATH 6-2/215 Suwanee, Ga.

Kevin Jarvis OL 6-5/315 Park Ridge, Ill.

Mustafa Khaleefah OL 6-6/285 Dearborn, Mich.

Rocky Lombardi QB 6-3/200 Des Moines, Iowa

Dominique Long DB 6-2/185 Westerville, Ohio

Laress Nelson WR 5-10/171 Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Jacub Panasiuk DE 6-4/260 Roselle, Ill.

Lashawn Paulino DE 6-3/230 Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Tre Person DB 6-0/165 Atlanta, Ga.

Jordan Reid OL 6-4/284 Detroit, Mich.

Hunter Rison WR 5-11/190 Ann Arbor, Mich.

Josiah Scott CB 5-10/175 Fairfield, Ohio

Antjuan Simmons LB 6-1/215 Ann Arbor, Mich.

DeAri Todd DE 6-4/230 Lorain, Ohio

Cody White WR 6-3/190 Walled Lake, Mich.

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