Michigan State's Mount Rushmore

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Without the faintest idea that ESPN would do this Mount Rushmore project, I got a head start on Michigan State's list in August when I took a tour of the school's new Skandalaris Football Center. The lobby might as well be a museum of Spartans football history, with tributes to national award winners and All-Americans.

There was some deliberation with Michigan State's Rushmore, and much like Minnesota, the Spartans force you to look back quite a few years. Aside from dominant stretches in the 1910s, 1930s and 1950s and Rose Bowl appearances in 1966 and 1988, Michigan State has been solid but not spectacular. The program underachieved for most of this decade until head coach Mark Dantonio arrived.

Here's the Spartans' fab four:

  • Duffy Daugherty -- Daugherty guided Michigan State to two Rose Bowls and back-to-back Big Ten championships in 1965 and 1966. He coached in "The Game of the Century" against Notre Dame and was named National Coach of the Year in 1965. The College Football Hall of Famer coached 29 first-team All-Americans.

  • Bubba Smith -- An athletic marvel at 6-foot-7, Smith was a two-time All-American defensive lineman who starred for the Spartans league title-winning teams in 1965 and 1966. Named UPI's Lineman of the Year in 1966, the immensely popular Smith led Michigan State to two unbeaten seasons before becoming the No. 1 overall pick in the 1967 NFL draft.

  • John Hannah -- Any university president who has a number retired for him deserves a place on the team's Rushmore. In 1969, Daugherty had the No. 46 retired as a tribute to Hannah's 46 years of service to the school, 28 as president. He lobbied for Michigan State to get into the Big Ten, which took place in 1950, and raised the profile for both the university and the football program.

  • Brad Van Pelt -- The countless tributes this week after Van Pelt's sudden death underscore what the multisport star meant to the Michigan State program. An oversized safety, Van Pelt was a two-time All-American for the Spartans and became the first defensive back to win the Maxwell Award in 1972. Van Pelt had 14 career interceptions and is one of only five Spartans players inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Other candidates considered included: Clarence Munn, George Webster, Don Coleman, Lorenzo White, Percy Snow and Art Brandstatter.