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From walk-on to captain for SL grad Setterbo

Nate Thompson • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:17 AM

Becoming a starting fullback and contributing consistently on a game-by-game basis never materialized for Setterbo. He’s appeared in just 10 games during his time donning the Green & White, including seven games this year as a back-up fullback and special teams player on kick-off returns.

In many ways, Setterbo’s biggest contributions to MSU’s program have come during the week, where he’s pushed MSU’s starters as a scout team member on the practice field and a warrior in the weight room. Not many college athletes would be willing to accept that role, especially considering the long hours and incredible dedication that is required from Division 1 athletes.

It’s not that Setterbo’s dedication through five years has been overlooked by his teammates and coaches. He recevied a plesant surprise before the Spartans’ rematch against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis on Dec. 3.

“We have something called a yearly council, which is kind of like a student council,” he said. “It’s a group that talks with Coach (Mark) Dantonio about certain things or issues on the team. And the guys’ opinion on that group determines who our fourth captain is each week. We have three captains with Trenton Robinson, Kirk Cousins and Joel Foreman and they help choose the fourth.

“So after the Northwestern game, Kirk Cousins comes up to me and says ‘You know you’re going to be our fourth captain next week?’ I was so excited. To be recognized by your teammates like that, it’s a nice feeling. It was going to be my birthday, too, so it made it that much more special.”

While Setterbo admits he’ll surely miss the comradire built amongst his teammates during his five years in East Lansing, he’ll enjoy the break from the crazy schedule demands that college football players face.

“That’s the biggest thing that people don’t truly understand; just the amount of time that we put in as members of this team,” Setterbo said Wednesday evening. “It’s really like a full-time job. That’s the best way to describe it. Before my first class at 8 a.m., I’ve already gone through a lifting or film session. I usually have just enough time to get lunch and then we practice from 2 until 7 at night. And some days, it’s even longer than that. It’s just a constant, continuous demand of your time throughout the season. And really, the only day we get off is Monday.

“This is the first time I’ve been able to get back home to Spring Lake since July,” he added. “The time dedicated to football just doesn’t allow it.”

After his playing days are officially over following the Spartans’ contest against Georgia at the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla., on Jan. 2, Setterbo will be able to look back and realize he was a member of the winningest class in Spartans’ football history. The 2007 class of recruits — that included Setterbo as a walk-on — have been a part of five-straight bowl games; experienced 43 total victories and 27 wins in the Big 10; won a share of the 2010 Big Ten Conference championship; captured the inaugural Big Ten’s Legends Division championship; and played in the Big Ten’s first championship game, where they lost a heartbreaker to Wisconsin.

“There were so many great moments just this year alone,” Setterbo said. “To beat (Michigan) four times in a row; that’s always a big game. It’s almost become more than just a rivalry for us. We compete every day to beat U-M, just because it’s such a good measuring stick for our program, considering the success they’ve had in the past.”

Setterbo also listed the Spartans’ defensive-minded win at Ohio State, their thrilling “Hail Mary” victory at Spartan Stadium against Wisconsin, and a key road win at Iowa as other memorable contests throughout the season. Personally, Setterbo said the thrill of playing at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb., was unlike any other game setting he’s experienced.

“That was one of the loudest atmospheres out there,” he said. “It was crazy. And playing on Senior Day against Indiana and getting time at fullback. That was a lot of fun.”

Setterbo, 23, the son of Mark and Lynn Setterbo, will complete his undergraduate studies at MSU in the spring and hopes to work as a graduate assistant in a collegiate strength and conditioning program. Ideally, he’d like to stay on at MSU and work under coach strength coach Ken Mannie.

It would be a natural fit for the 6-foot-3, 245-pound Setterbo, considering he continually impressed coaches at MSU with his achievements in the weight room.

“I’d like to stay and work at the college level,” he said. “I just like the intensity of the game at the collegiate level. It would be tough to take a step back and go back to a high school program. Plus, at the college level, they’re more focused on improving athletically and injury prevention. And I’d have an opportunity to help guys mature and grow up a little bit.”

Setterbo has been one who’s matured not only physically, but mentally and emotionally during his five years in East Lansing. His biggest growth came in the form of realizing first hand that hard work does indeed pay off.

“I’d say I’m just more knowledgeable now about the amount of time and hard work it takes to achieve a goal,” he said. “When I first got here, the goal was to get to the Rose Bowl, but at that time, getting to any bowl game was almost out of question. Knowing how far out we were from the Rose Bowl then, and for us being so close to it now, it just reaffirms that if you can believe it, you can do it. If you do put the work in, anything is possible.” 

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