The Rose Bowl will mark the final college game for many Spartans on Wednesday, but for Jairus Jones, his senior season ended in September.
With an interception that he lateraled back to Kurtis Drummond – who returned it for MSU's first touchdown of the season – Jones got things off on the right foot.
"In my honest opinion, selfishly, I think I helped the team," he said. "I pretty much set the tone. That's my selfish opinion – that I set the tone. Of course, these guys did everything."
Jones suffered an MCL injury in South Bend in September. While surgery was held off with hopes of getting him back late in the season, but it didn't work out that way and with it being his third injury during his time in, the decision was made for him to hang it up.
"It was a long and painful road, I could say, but I'm here now so that's all that matters," he said.
Here is Pasadena, the goal for his class and part of the recruiting pitch for him coming out of Tampa.
"That was one of the main things," he said. "We are going to go to the Rose Bowl eventually. It might not be the next year, it might not be the year after that but we are going to get there as long as we keep grinding, we are going to get there."
And during his time in East Lansing, he said the focus sharpened every year and it was a process to see that goal become reality.
"The first year, we got a lot of guys in trouble," he said. "Second year, we tied the Big Ten. Next year, we went to the first Big Ten Championship Game. Last year, we had a little setback. This year, it's the Rose Bowl. It's been progress every year I've been here."
Now, the road concludes in Pasadena, even if it will just be on the sidelines pulling for his teammates.
"I'm going to be grateful that I'm here and to be on the sideline and at the Rose Bowl," he said. "There is no better feeling than that. It's the biggest game of these guys' lives and it would be if I was playing, too."
With suffering an lengthy injury for the third straight season, Jones' role on the defense underwent a change, but he found a way to contribute.
"The injuries just helped me be a lot more rounded," he said. "I can still see everybody playing. I can still watch film. I just to mentor some of the younger guys, help coaching if the coaches need me and just trying to give a helping hand to anybody that needs it."
That willingness and attitude kept Jones as an important part of the team. Defensive backs coach Harlon Barnett said "He's not just a bump in the log at the game" and it was that active role that had the coaches keeping him on the active travel squad.
"I'll tell you what he means to us," coach Mark Dantonio said. "We took him to every away game this year even though we knew he wasn't going to play because he's got a sense about him in terms of the type of person he is and he impacts other individuals on the team."
Junior Taiwan Jones, who was splitting time at the STAR linebacker with Jairus Jones to open the season, said it was a testament to the leader that Jones is.
"It says a lot," Taiwan Jones said. "Obviously, Coach D saw something in him that he knew that he was important to this team and I feel like he is important to the linebacker room as well because he points stuff out and watches film with us and helps us to get better each game.
"Right now, even though he's not playing, he always there giving me tips on the sideline. If I'm mad at something, he'll calm me down. He's just a great person to be around and he has a great football IQ."
It is that football knowledge and ability to communicate and relate to people that give linebackers coach Mike Tressel reason to say he sees a future coach when he looks at Jones.
"He understands the game, that's first," Tressel said. "He communicates well with the guys and the guys respect him, that's second. They don't only respect him as a person, player and teammate, they respect his knowledge. They can see it."
And Jones knows that is the first goal he has once he finishes with his degree in human resources in the spring.
"I just feel like I couldn't be away from football for that long," he said. "I know once you get done, there's like a transition period that players gotta go through. Mine happened in the middle of the season.
"It was like, alright, I know I wouldn't be able to be away from it so I gotta find some type of way to be around it and I feel like that's my way."
He has been talking with his coaches at Michigan State about any possible opportunities that may arise. While being a graduate assistant isn't what he has in mind, Dantonio has been looking for ways to help him find an opportunity either in East Lansing or elsewhere.
"Coach D said he was going to try and help me out," Jones said. "He will get in touch with other schools. I could intern here if I needed it. There's just a lot of things.
"He's really good dude and he wants to help me out. He will help anybody out after they are done. It's a great feeling to have a coach like that."
But for Jones, being around the game is what matters and helped keep him going through injuries.
"As I got to the end of school, I was like, well I could do that, but there would be something missing," he said. "I feel like this is what would be missing – being around football."
It is that love of that game that makes Tressel and Barnett believe Jones will be a successful coach.
"That would be awesome," Barnett said. "He will be a great coach someday."
And on Wednesday in Pasadena, someday can get under way Jones again will get the chance to help coach his teammates and enjoy fulfilling the goal they set out to achieve.
The goal he helped set the tone for back at the end of August.