In eight seasons as the head coach at Michigan State, Mark Danotonio has led the Spartans to their most successful run in program history. He’s led the Spartans to two Big Ten Championships and wins in back-to-back “New Years’ Six” Bowl Games. It can be argued that the Spartans’ best players of today’s era are among the greatest in school history.
According to isportsMSU.com, Lucasville native Trevon Pendleton makes the cut.
Over the past month, the Michigan State fan site has been naming the greatest players of the “Dantonio Era” according to position, and Pendleton was named the team’s best fullback since 2007.
The site also took votes from fans and media members, and both agreed that Pendleton has been Dantonio’s best fullback.
“It’s humbling,” Pendleton said. “I’ve seen some really good players come through there, in my mind there’s no way that I think I’m better than them…It’s just something I can’t even put into words.”
In his four seasons at East Lansing, Pendleton has gone from walk-on to starter and helped lead the Spartans to a 52-12 record, a Big Ten Championship in 2013 and four straight bowl game wins. He’s caught nine passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns in his career, including a two-yard TD reception during the 2013 Rose Bowl Game against Stanford.
Pendleton also cleared the way for one of the school’s all-time leading rushers, Le’Veon Bell. Bell ranks seventh in school history in both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, and was taken in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“Even when (Bell) was at Michigan State, you could tell he had a special ability to carry the ball,” Pendleton said. “He has great vision, he had everything you look for in a running back, he was going to make it regardless. It was very humbling to be around people like that and see the talent.”
Though the Spartans were able to bring home a Cotton Bowl championship in 2014 with a 20-point fourth-quarter comeback win against Baylor, losses to Oregon and Ohio State marred what was otherwise another magnificent season for Pendleton. With his fifth and final season with Michigan State quickly approaching, the Spartan senior has revenge on his mind.
“This is our team, this is what our class will be known for. That’s the senior mindset: we have to make our own legacy,” Pendleton said.
The Ohio State game holds a special place in Pendleton’s heart. Being from the Buckeye state, he knows most of his lifelong friends still bleed scarlet and gray, and nothing would please him more than to break their hearts and lead Michigan State to a win in Ohio Stadium on Nov. 21.
“Growing up around it and being around Ohio State fans now, it holds a lot of significance to me,” he said. “Our motto is to ‘Walk the streets and not the alleys.’ If you win, you’re able to take the streets for a year and you don’t have to take the back alleys.”
Despite the fact that he plays in a rival Big Ten school, Pendleton says that he continues to be overwhelmed by the support he receives from Scioto County.
“West Portsmouth community has been unreal with the support and the backing I’ve had. Even when we played Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship, there were many people from the west side and different parts of the county that wore green and cheered for us.
“The whole area in general has been great,” he added. “The way they get behind someone from their community has been a blessing.”
And just as West Portsmouth has not forgotten its native son, he hasn’t forgotten his Senators. Whenever he can, Pendleton tries to return home to catch the Senators play at The Rock. When he can’t make it back, he’s following along online. He still knows exactly where he was when his Senators ended Valley’s 36-game regular-season winning streak last season.
“It was a road game (against Purdue),” he said. “I remember talking to my brother (West assistant coach Jarrod Pendleton) about it, and we bounced things back and forth…As soon as it was over, I called and congratulated him. He was pretty happy about it.”
Though he doesn’t want to look too far down the road, Pendleton feels he has a shot to play professionally next season. He’s stayed in contact with Le’Veon Bell, and hopes that his success with the Steelers reflects on his potential in the NFL.
“I haven’t looked into it much…but I definitely think that’s an opportunity,” Pendleton said. “I feel confident in my abilities and I feel like I definitely will have the opportunity. I just need to go out and make things happen and take advantage of it.”
Reach Alex Hider at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931 or on Twitter @PDTSportsWriter