Anderson takes 'spiritual' journey to Michigan State

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Life seemed good for defensive end Trevor Anderson after Cincinnati's spring game in 2007, but things were about to change.

"I was like, 'Man, I did good in the spring game. I killed. Man, I'm about to get ready for a big season,'" said Anderson, who had recorded 10 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss in his first two years with the Bearcats. "But God, He has a way of humbling you."

A "personal conversation I had spiritually" told Anderson he needed to leave Cincinnati, which became a difficult process.

New Bearcats coach Brian Kelly initially refused to release Anderson from his scholarship if the defensive end transferred to Michigan State, coached by Kelly's Cincinnati predecessor, Mark Dantonio. Several other possible destinations were approved, including Michigan, but not East Lansing.

Anderson had to overcome some academic hurdles in transferring his credits from Cincinnati, but he eventually got his wish, to play for Dantonio again and, more importantly, to be closer to his family. After sitting out last season, he returns to the field this fall and is expected to start on a Spartans line looking to replace standout ends Ervin Baldwin and Jonal Saint-Dic.

"Perfect timing," defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said.

"He can be looked at and say, 'Hey, here's an example of how to do it,' whether it's this pass rush or this particular stunt," Dantonio said. "That's powerful to have on your football team."

Anderson was popular Tuesday at Michigan State's media day, as a sizable crowd formed around the man pegged to be the team's most impact addition. The 6-foot-2, 250-pound end seemed anxious to return to the spotlight on Saturdays, especially after a season of watching his new team and hearing about his old team, which went 10-3 and was ranked No. 17 in the final AP Poll.

"I knew in my heart I did the right thing," Anderson said. "Even when I left and players still Facebooked me or called me, saying, 'Man, if we had you, we're doing good, but we'd be doing [even better],' I told them, 'I wish y'all the best. I wish you win the national championship.' I had no hard feelings toward any of my teammates. I was kind of sour about the way the situation went, but that's the business of college football. Things like that happen and they're going to continue to happen."

Prohibited from playing in games last season, Anderson turned his attention toward reestablishing ties in his hometown of Detroit. Though Spartans defensive line coach Ted Gill said Anderson's dream has always been to play for Michigan State, Anderson remembers wanting to play several times zone away.

He considered UCLA, something that didn't go over well with his mom, Dionne.

"She prayed that I wouldn't get a scholarship more than five hours away," Anderson said. "And where did I end up? Cincinnati. Five hours away."

When Dantonio left Cincinnati for Michigan State in November 2006, Anderson's mom asked him if he wanted to come home, but at that time he was preparing for the International Bowl and wanted to stay put. Several months later, he changed his mind.

"I left high school three days after graduation," Anderson said, "so [when I came back] me and my mother reconnected in so many ways. It actually turned out to be a blessing off the field, especially with family. Football's cool, but at the end, your body's going to wear out. I got a lot of close relationships reattached."

Among them were those with Dantonio and assistants like Narduzzi and Gill, who followed the head coach from Cincinnati to Michigan State.

"He knows us, he knows what's expected within the defense," Gill said. "He knows the breakdowns if he doesn't do certain things and he knows if he does certain things, what it can give us. You're really excited about that."