Does everyone have a story?
Defensive line coach Ron Burton believes so. In sixth-year senior defensive tackle Tyler Hoover's case, the story involves being a leader to his teammates on and off the field.
"Here's a guy that could have given up after several injuries and continues to strive and continues to create an opportunity for himself," Burton said. "With the interesting situation with him being a graduate, finishing his master's degree. That is a great example of someone overcoming adversity.
"Remember, experience is the true teacher and that young man is going to help – not only people in my room, but in every room in the building and people that are here on this campus."
During Hoover's time at Michigan State, he has been through a lot – from being redshirted his freshman year to starting in 2010 to missing all but one game in 2011 with a fractured rib. He graduated from Michigan State in December 2012 and now is working on his Master's degree.
He also is trying to earn his starting job back – something he is proud to talk about.
"One of my proudest moments is going on right now, from being able to come back from that year off to being able to get into some games last year and now being able to fight for that starting job," Hoover said. "It's really exciting."
Hoover praised Burton for instilling the crazed football mentality in the defensive linemen.
"(He has put) the motor into us that maybe we didn't have before," Hoover said.
The competitor and leader
Burton wasn't here in 2011 when Hoover was injured – it's his first year at Michigan State. What he is focused on is that Hoover's season-ending rib injury isn't hindering him anymore, even as Burton creates tough situations in practice for the defensive linemen.
"His breathing is a part of what everybody has to go through and, in my opinion, that starts with the training staff on being able to put the product back on the field," Burton said. "He's back on the field. I (can't) think anything where I've zeroed in on him because I have them all exhausted."
For Hoover, he doesn't want to think about the injury. It was a low point for him, but it did bring him an appreciation for what he receives and has to work with.
As an elder statesmen on the Spartans, Hoover also wants to be the man – a role he sees fellow senior Max Bullough filling. Hoover described the linebacker as the voice of the defense and how the whole team feeds off what he says and does.
"How he speaks to us is real. He doesn't come off fake or anything," Hoover said. "He doesn't come out with unreal goals. He tells it how it is. He tells us how we're doing – and when he needs to speak up, he'll speak up.
"We're all pretty confident he's a great leader."
Hoover said he wants to be the teammate that knows the ins and outs of both the defensive end and defensive tackle positions, so younger players come to him.
In a sense, Burton feels as though Hoover has been a leader to underclassmen.
"The tenure I've had with him we've created a D-line drills situations where seniors has to lead that from the defensive tackles to the defensive ends and he's been the guy," Burton said. "It shows in the improvement of drills that we had him teach (the young) guys to what he's doing now.
"He's shown that leadership by being the example, coaching the kids up this summer when we didn't have any contact with them. So, the proof is what he's done with those guys."
The one aspect of the game Hoover wants his younger teammates to learn is the importance of relationships within the team.
"With the highs and the lows, you come out being so thankful for the people that are around you," Hoover said. "It's really all about making relationships with these guys.
"Just being apart of a bigger picture than just yourself."
Hoover mentioned that is something head coach Mark Dantonio believes in, too.
"All I got to say is he's so consistent on his goals," Hoover said. "So consistent on his personality and who he is as a person — he's so consistent with everyone.
"I'm so happy I got the chance to work under him. One of his goals it to make life-long relationships with players and I know I know I will keep in touch with him for the rest of my life."
Burton believes Hoover will be successful with anything that he choses to do because he continues to work hard.
"That's what a leader is," Burton said.