Book Review: Heart of a Spartan

Jonathan Daniel

A few weeks back, I was given a publisher's copy of "Heart of a Spartan," a new book by veteran MSU writer Jack Ebling. I've got a few books about MSU sports history and figured this would be a good one to add.

The book chronicles MSU's football renaissance over the 2010 and 2011 seasons, and, although it was only a year ago, takes you back to the glory days of this generation.

The book was inspired by "Little Giants" in 2010 and was meant as a one-year project. But after Ebling was diagnosed with prostate cancer and MSU was demolished by Alabama in the Capital One Bowl, things changed. Kirk Cousins apologized for a bad ending, but promised a better one in 2011, so the story went on.

The first part of the book is a look back at MSU's football history. Before you can tell the story of the renaissance, you have to know how things got to that position. The book is full of all sorts of interesting nuggets I never knew (such as Mark Dantonio playing with Ronnie "Sunshine" Bass at South Carolina).

After setting the table, the rest of the book is a collection of Ebling's columns throughout the two seasons. It really takes you back to the mindset people had at the time. Coming off a 6-7 season that ended with a multitude of suspensions and dismissals, the program wasn't looking good. But Ebling saw the returning pieces and the schedule and predicted about nine wins. A couple of surprising wins later, the Spartans had their first Big Ten championship.

But after a blowout loss in the bowl, it put a damper on everything. Maybe it was a fluke season? Ebling again predicted nine wins, and again the Spartans picked up some surprising wins on the way to the Big Ten Championship Game, which was followed by a perception-changing win over Georgia in the Outback Bowl.

Given these columns were written at the time, the prospective talk of the Spartans playing in the Rose Bowl those years certainly was tough to look back on, though it was certainly warranted. The only things about the book that irked me were the frequent references to and jabs at Michigan, often at random times. But I'm sure that's actually a selling point for some of you :)

Maybe it's because this season took so many years off our lives, but the pair of 11-win seasons feel so long ago. Still, MSU football remains on the upswing under Dantonio, and it's important to know how far this program has come.

It's about 300 pages of MSU history, including a ton of awesome photos from Matthew Mitchell. Tom Izzo does the foreword, and it's a great read.

All in all, if you want to remember two of the best seasons in MSU football history, you should get this book. Just in time for Christmas, too!

The book costs about $50 (plus shipping). Here is the book's official website, which includes how to purchase it and customize the cover. It certainly would make a good Christmas gift for a Spartan fan.

Thanks to Jack for sending me a copy.

(Please don't turn this into an argument about this year's team. That's not the point. It's about the book).

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