The Spartans also can claim a fourth current NFL quarterback as one of their own, as Philadelphia’s Nick Foles spent his freshman season as a Spartan before transferring to Arizona.
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio still considers Foles to be a Spartan, even though he only played in one game.
”Although he didn't graduate from Michigan State and played here (one game), I consider him one of our guys, one of my guys,” Dantonio said. “As a matter of fact, talked to his father yesterday, talked to Nick recently. Got married. So his life is going obviously very, very well.”
Foles was brought in as part of Dantonio’s first recruiting class at Michigan State, which also brought in Cousins. The pair arrived on campus in the fall of 2007 in Dantonio’s first season after being hired from Cincinnati.
”Nick was a big, strong-arm guy, very successful in high school,” Dantonio said. “He was about 6'5", 220 pounds even at that time. Had a great arm, live arm.
”Kirk Cousins came in, as I remember, had a great fall camp. As most freshmen go, plateaued a little bit, as most do. Kirk had a great attention to detail.”
Foles played in the Spartans’ season opener in 2007, completing 5 of 8 passes for 57 yards against UAB as one of the backups to then-starter Hoyer, who was a junior at the time.
”Sort of unique that we had Brian Hoyer and Nick Foles and Kirk Cousins all in the same room as quarterbacks being coached by Dave Warner back in 2007,” Dantonio said.
Foles left for Arizona after his freshman season, in part due to the transfer of Keith Nichol from Oklahoma. Cousins ultimately won the quarterback battle with Nichol in 2009, going on to lead Michigan State to a Big Ten title in 2010 and a Legends Division title in 2011.
With both Cousins and Foles on campus, though, Dantonio said it was not a sure thing who would be the guy.
”We didn't know who the guy was going to be,” Dantonio said. “Both great individuals, great young men, had passion for the game, were going to compete. …
”But we thought that both guys, when we try and assess guys, we thought both young men were going to be great quarterbacks.”