Duffy Daugherty Football Building

East Lansing, MI

When Mike Panasiuk committed to Michigan State from Roselle, IL for the 2016 football recruiting class he was underrated. The Spartan coaches fully expected if the young man continued with the work and effort he showed to earn the scholarship he could compete and play as a true freshman. He hasn’t disappointed.

Panasiuk is another great player the Spartan coaching staff can add to its track record of recognizing early, that many did not. In fact, the moment MSU came calling, other schools instantly took notice.

Earlier this summer Spartan Nation traveled to Illinois to spend the day with Mike (WATCH HIS ENTIRE INTERVIEW HERE) and his parents Darius and Jolanta for his brother Jacub’s announcement (WATCH HIS ENTIRE INTERVIEW HERE) of where he would attend college and play football. Jacub is a highly sought after DE that committed to the Spartans on that day.

While I was criticized for saying that Panasiuk had a chance to play early for the Spartans, he proved me correct. He was a rare young man who worked harder after signing day than he even did before. He lived in the weight room and unlike many who quickly develop a terror or fear of Coach Ken Mannie, the Spartans legendary strength coach, he embraces him and loves the coaching he brings.

That is why no one should be surprised that out of the entire roster, Panasiuk may be having the best camp of anyone. While a monster at 6’3” and 315 pounds and one of the strongest players on the team, don’t think the young man is only big. He moves with ease and has a high motor that has made others take notice.

Dantonio bragged after Panasiuk’s impressive performance last Saturday in the team’s first scrimmage saying, “(Mike) Panasiuk has been strong at the point of attack.”

DL Coach Ron Burton was even more braggadocios of his young star. “The strength of this young man and his ability to stop the run. He is still a work in progress, but he understands the game. He has the smarts to understand what we ask him to do.”

If you judge Panasiuk as a big jock you’d be right, but you can’t count out that he is incredibly smart. He is proof that at this level size can help you be good, but only the smart can be great. Panasiuk is smart and is now focusing on learning the fundamentals.

Burton elaborated saying, “A lot of them are all impressive because of the fact that their size is there and their athleticism is there. What they have to continue to work on is their fundamentals and that is what we are harping on right now.”

For Panasiuk who has a young boy’s love for Christmas for the game of football, he isn’t exhausted from a long grueling camp. He loves and embraces the learning of the Spartans much ballyhooed defensive scheme every day. “We learn new stuff every day. We learned a lot about the run and different tricks and stunts and stuff like that, so we learn new stuff every day.”

Credit his amazing parents for Panasiuk’s brain. These hardworking polish immigrants are two absolutely amazing people that insisted their sons embrace the classroom over the football field. That commitment to education and being smart has helped their son shine early. While many young players are swimming in information, Panasiuk craves it as much as a big meal at the Brody Complex’s legendary cafeteria. He loves it.

“(Defensive Line Coach Ron Burton) and I are always looking what to improve on in the defensive meeting rooms, so he is always telling me what to do and what not to do and stuff like that. He is always telling me good things and bad things.”

Panasiuk was fortunate to come from an extremely well coached high school program. Coach Chris Roll (WATCH OUR ENTIRE INTERVIEW HERE with Coach Roll) and his staff are one of the best coaching staffs there is in Illinois high school football. That gave him an advantage because those same coaches pushed him all summer prior to his arrival in East Lansing to get in shape.

“It is definitely a lot harder than high school and you are always going and going and going against bigger and stronger guys. So today, it was pretty hot outside, so the conditioning I just have to keep it up, keep going and keep grinding.”

At the premiere event for the recruits, The Opening, that took place this past July in Beaverton, Oregon, the massive Panasiuk bench pressed 185 pounds a record setting 43 times. There are offensive AND defensive lineman in the NFL that can’t do that. Panasiuk didn’t think that would earn him playing time as a true freshman. He knows that is a tough thing to do.

“It is definitely banging heads every play, no matter if you have your knee pads on or not, you are banging heads with offensive linemen. It is harder with the interior linemen because it is all about strength and technique. Coming in, not a lot of people have great technique. Usually when you get to college, it is all about strength coming out of high school, but now when you get here it is all about technique, so it is definitely something different.”

A coach can’t teach size, speed, or work ethic. That is one of the big things the Spartans fell in love with early. What Panasiuk lacked in fundamentals, he easily has made up with great work ethic and tremendous hunger to learn from great high school coaches and now the Spartans.

This is how Dantonio summed it up this week. “When you work and you have those God-given abilities, then usually good things follow.”

That is why I stand by what I reported last summer when he committed. I fully expect that if he can avoid injury, Panasiuk will play and play a lot this year. This is a credit to his desire to play the game he loves and his amazing parents that instilled in him a commitment to learning and a work ethic of a lion.

What many won’t understand is that the only thing bigger than Panasiuk on the field, is the quality of young man that he is off of it. He is humble, kind, and ready to shine for the Spartans in 2016.