DRY BRANCH, Ga. -- If you've ever driven through Dry Branch, Ga. -- and chances are that you haven't -- it's easy to see why Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard nearly fell though the cracks in recruiting.
Dennard's hometown is tucked away in the countryside of aptly named Twiggs County. The "city" limits stretch for about three miles down Old Gordon Road. There's a shuttered elementary school, sheriff's office substation, railroad tracks, volunteer fire department and, of course, a Baptist church that has stood since 1811.
Other than a few dozen homes, there isn't much else. Dennard isn't sure why his hometown is named Dry Branch, but maybe it's because you could throw a branch from one side of town to the other without hitting water (or much of anything else).
"There's no downtown at all," Dennard said. "It is pretty much country."
Make no mistake: College football's best cornerback grew up in the sticks. And with one game to go in his college career, there's no doubt that Dennard -- who is called "Country" by his teammates -- is the sport's best lockdown defender. He became the first MSU player to win the Jim Thorpe Award as the country's best defensive back, was a consensus first-team All-American and was named Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year.
On New Year's Day, Dennard and the No. 4 Spartans will face No. 5 Stanford in the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO. It will be Michigan State's first trip to Pasadena, Calif., in 26 years after it upset then-No. 2 Ohio State 34-24 in the Big Ten championship game to win its first outright league title since 1987.
"I couldn't have imagined this in my wildest dreams," Dennard said. "It is really amazing looking back and realizing the journey I've come along. It's truly a blessing, and I just thank God for allowing it to happen."
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