Michigan State football: Spartans in the XFL end of season recap
How did the Spartans in the XFL fare?
This year saw five former Michigan State football players in the XFL. Even better, two earned All-XFL honors. Here’s how everyone did.
The XFL season officially ended last weekend, with the Arlington Renegades defeating the D.C. Defenders 35-26. Let’s see how our former Michigan State football players’ seasons went.
Shakur Brown, CB, Arlington Renegades
Stat line: 34 tackles, 1 interception
In case you had not heard, Shakur Brown is an XFL champion. Brown started every game he played this year for coach Bob Stoops. He had 12 starts in 26 games as a Spartan, recording seven interceptions in the green and white. He has bounced around the offseason and practice squad teams for four different NFL teams. Brown was a fifth-round selection in the XFL draft for defensive backs. Hopefully, his contributions to the champion Arlington Renegades will earn him one more chance in the XFL.
Unfortunately, Brown ended the season on injured reserve. He was placed there on May 8, so this would be a concern for getting him any looks by the NFL.
Jacub Panasiuk, DL, D.C. Defenders
Stat line: 19 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL
In order to win the championship, Brown’s Renegades had to beat Jacub Panasiuk’s D.C. Defenders. Panasiuk is the most experienced player in Spartan history, with his 57 career games currently being a school record. Panasiuk was unable to make the NFL as an undrafted free agent with Washington last year but did not have to move very far after the XFL draft. There, Panasiuk was a third-round selection by the D.C. Defenders for the defensive front seven phase. He put together a solid year, with half-sacks in games against San Antonio and Vegas. In the championship game against Arlington, Panasiuk recorded a tackle for loss.
Montae Nicholson, DB, D.C. Defenders
Stat line: 6 tackles, 1 fumble recovery
Of all the players on this list, Montae Nicholson is the longest removed from his time as a Spartan. Nicholson started 23 games for Michigan State, including the 2015 Big Ten Championship and College Football Playoff Semifinal. During that time, Montae recorded four interceptions and 200 career tackles.
Much like Jacub Panasiuk, Nicholson spent time with Washington before ultimately finding his way back to D.C. in the XFL. Nicholson was a fourth-round selection by the Commanders in 2017 and had starting experience with the team before issues off the field paused his career. Nicholson found his way back to football in D.C. this year, signing with the team after the XFL draft.
The defensive back has struggled to stay healthy for most of his career, and the XFL was no different. His season ended on April 18, when he was placed on reserve. It looks grim for Nicholson’s hopes now, but the starting NFL experience, including an interception of Tom Brady, makes him an enticing comeback story. After all, he is only 27. There could be a lot of good football left in the former Spartan standout.
Drew Beesley, DL, San Antonio Brahmas
Stat line: 27 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 7 TFL, 1 interception, 1 touchdown
Alongside Jacub Panasiuk, Drew Beesley is among the most recent Spartan alumni in the XFL. Additionally, he also was quite tenured with Michigan State, playing in 42 career games. In the XFL draft, the 23-year-old was a 10th-round selection in the phase for front seven players.
Beesley was one of the best defenders in the XFL this season, finishing it tied for fifth in sacks. This effort was rewarded with a nod to the All-XFL team. Beesley’s best play this year came against Orlando, as he recorded a pick-six in a two-point victory for the Brahmas.
After such a strong season, I am hoping Beesley will get a chance with to break into the NFL.
Mike Panasiuk, OL, St. Louis Battlehawks
Stat line: 10 games started
Mike Panasiuk is the greatest success story of Spartans in the XFL so far. As I have covered in a few articles on this site, the converted defensive lineman went from going undrafted by both the NFL and XFL into an all-star. Panasiuk was the starting center for one of the best offenses in the XFL this season, buying time for A.J. McCarron and paving the way for Brian Hill on their way to a 7-3 record.
Unfortunately for Panasiuk, his Battlehawks went 0-2 against little brother Jacub’s D.C. Defenders. However, they did defeat former defensive line-mate Drew Beesley’s San Antonio Brahmas. His efforts on the field earned him a tryout with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie minicamp, where he hopes to earn his way back into the NFL.
As I covered previously, earning a roster spot would have him reunite with a few other former Spartans in Cody White and Connor Heyward.
Miles Bridges posts interesting Snapchat with Michael Jordan
Miles Bridges is eyeing an NBA return.
Miles Bridges has been out of the NBA for a year after getting into a domestic incident but it looks like he may be back soon.
Former Michigan State star Miles Bridges posted a picture on Snapchat of him talking to Michael Jordan on Saturday.
Miles Bridges on Snapchat 👀 pic.twitter.com/mAdSZu9cvx
— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) May 20, 2023
After being out of the NBA for a year, this could be a hint at a return despite the controversy that would follow him.
Bridges has been in a lot of trouble off the court this past year. That is not something we need to dive into now, but Bridges missed all of last season due to serious legal issues. However, with Miles’ legal battle now complete, he is now able to play in the NBA again. The NBA suspended Bridges for 30 games but has ruled 20 of those games as being served. If an NBA team were to sign Bridges, he would have to sit for just 10 games before he can play again.
The picture above may be an indication of which team is looking to sign Bridges. Miles has spent his entire NBA career playing with the Charlotte Hornets. Jordan is the owner of the Hornets, so this picture shows that Bridges may be looking to re-sign with his former team.
Bridges has played four seasons in the NBA. During that time, he is averaging 13.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 2.3 assists. His best season by far was his last. In the 2021-22 season, he averaged 20.2 points and 7.0 rebounds while shooting nearly 50 percent from the field. He has shown constant improvement during his career, but there is a lot of unknown with where his game is at now.
Relationship with MSU Fans
Michigan State fans do not support Miles like they once did. He was one of the most loved Spartans especially after he made the decision to return for a second season in East Lansing. Spartan fans continued to watch and support him during his NBA career as well. That all changed once his off-court legal issues began last year.
It will be interesting to see how all basketball fans treat Bridges if he makes a return to the NBA.
Gary Harris back taking Michigan State classes to earn his degree
Gary Harris hasn’t given up on that degree.
Gary Harris is back taking summer classes at Michigan State so he can earn his degree during the NBA offseason.
Every NBA draft cycle, players leave college early to pursue their dreams of playing professionally and making millions. What often gets overlooked when that happens is that the players who leave early surrender a chance to earn their college degrees on schedule.
Some players who leave early decide to go back and finish their degree which is a really cool move and it shows that they took college seriously.
Others don’t think twice about their degrees and just play pro ball.
Gary Harris is the former group.
According to @dudenamedcald on Twitter, Harris is taking classes at Michigan State currently so he can finish his degree. He posted a screenshot of a discussion post by Harris in one of his friend’s summer classes.
The goat Gary Harris is getting back to hitting the books for MSU. An absolute class act by Gary
Spartan dawg 4L 💯 pic.twitter.com/mzhFYgagPy
— down bad cald🔋 (@dudenamedcald) May 19, 2023
Imagine taking a summer class at Michigan State and then seeing a “discussion post” from a “Gary Harris” and then reading it just to see if it’s the Gary Harris. And then it is.
Harris, currently residing in Indiana over the summer, just wrapped up a season with the Orlando Magic in which he averaged 8.3 points and shot 45 percent from the floor, 43 percent from 3-point range, and 90 percent from the free throw line. His averages have gone down, but his shooting percentages remain elite.
But he’s clearly not content with being just an NBA starter. He wants to earn that MSU degree.
Leaving after the 2013-14 season, Harris was drafted No. 19 overall in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls. He played two years at Michigan State and then earned a borderline NBA Lottery draft grade but slid to 19. Harris was then traded to Denver where he was one of the league’s brightest young stars for seven years. For the past three years, he’s been Orlando’s “veteran” wing.
And soon, he’ll be a graduate of Michigan State University.
Brian Lewerke gets another opportunity to play pro football
Brian Lewerke is headed back to Michigan to play pro ball.
Brian Lewerke will be joining former MSU cornerback Josh Butler in the USFL with the Michigan Panthers.
After spending a couple of stints in the NFL with the Patriots and Giants as a practice squad member, Brian Lewerke is getting another shot at professional football.
On Wednesday evening, the USFL’s Michigan Panthers announced the signing of Lewerke.
Free Agent Signing:
QB Brian Lewerke, Michigan State
Transferred Player to Inactive Roster:
QB Brian Lewerke
LB Santrell Latham
— Michigan Panthers (@USFLPanthers) May 18, 2023
Lewerke was signed after Carson Strong, the previous backup quarterback, was placed on injured reserve. He will now get a chance to compete for a prominent role on the roster with Strong injured and Josh Love not exactly setting the world on fire.
Quarterback play has not been a strength for the Panthers.
In four appearances, Strong had 266 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions. Love, on the other hand, has started five games and has 617 yards and six touchdowns with five picks. Neither quarterback has really stood out and that’s one of the reasons the Panthers are 2-3 and tied for last place.
Lewerke has spent time around the NFL with the Patriots and Giants and he was also in the XFL this past season for a few months, signing with the Seattle Sea Dragons. He was released in January.
Now he’ll look to catch on with the Panthers and potentially enter a more favorable situation. This could be a good spot for him to play professional football, especially since the Panthers need some quarterback help.
Lewerke had a decent career at Michigan State, passing for over 8,000 (fourth in MSU history) yards and 47 touchdowns (fifth in MSU history). He also has two of the top three single-game passing yard performances in Michigan State history and two of the top 10 single-season passing yardages.
Michigan State fans will get another opportunity to watch him live as there are two more home games left in the regular season for Lewerke to play at Ford Field.
The former Spartan quarterback will join Josh Butler who was signed by the Panthers earlier this spring.
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