On third-and-longs last season, Kellen Davis, normally an offensive force, played defensive end. He paired-up with Ervin Baldwin, normally a defensive end who slid down to nose tackle.
Out of their regular positions, the duo excelled in a new and challenging situation. They'll get the chance to repeat that experiences in the NFL.
The Chicago Bears selected the Michigan State teammates one after the other: Davis in the fifth round (158 overall) and Baldwin the first pick of the seventh (208).
Davis, whose real job will be at tight end, showed his athleticism and physicality by playing defensive end in the 4-3 look MSU showed on third downs.
And Baldwin, affectionately known as G-ball, had a breakout year at defensive end for the Spartans with 8.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss.
A Terrific Tight End
Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner likes what the he sees in Davis.
“He’s a good player. He brings a bit to the running game," Turner said. "We are pleased with the way he blocks and he can also bring something as a receiver.
"We’ve talked to ... the guys on that staff (Michigan State), the offensive line coach (Dan Roushar) was with me at Illinois, so I had the chance to talk to him about his work ethic, about practice, about just him, his character and all of that stuff. We’re fine with everything we see there.”
And Davis likes what he sees in front of him.
"It’s feels great to be a Chicago Bear," he said, "to be going to a great city and a great team with a good coach and a couple other really good tight ends. I am just really excited about the opportunity."
Like teammate Devin Thomas, Davis fell down the board a bit.
"I was surprised, before I was hearing that I was supposed to be a second or third round pick," he said.
And while he aged a bit with the stress of the day, in the end he feels like he's found a home.
"I was up there for a while and it made it a little tense for me, but I ended up going to a good place and somewhere where I can feel that I can learn at the next level," he said.
Davis credits the MSU coaching staff, led by Mark Dantonio, with helping him take his game to the next level.
"I feel very close to Coach Dantonio and I still talk to my position coach on a weekly basis and have a really close relationship that I want to carry over to being similar with my next coaching staff," he said.
Such a tight bond lies in stark contrast to Davis' relationship with the John L. Smith regime.
"I didn’t really have a great relationship with the previous coaching staff, and I don’t think that a lot of people did either, but I don’t think there was any bad blood or anything like that. I played hard and we weren’t just very successful as a team with the previous coaching staff."
In the fall, Davis plans on making his mark where it really matters: "The red zone, that is where I am most productive at, being as tall as I am," he said.
"Especially with the tendency to run the ball once you get inside the 20, just with play action and a lot of things like that are good for me and put me on one-on-one coverage with safeties or linebackers and I feel very comfortable in situations like that."
A Dominating D-end
For two years, Ervin Baldwin wrecked havoc in Big Ten backfields for MSU.
He returned as the team's leading sacker from 2006 and continued his stellar play in 2007 with 18.5 TFLs, the second highest single-season total in Spartan history.
On Sunday, though, the talented junior college transfer from Oglethorpe, Georgia, like his two drafted teammates, waited and waited for his name to be announced.
"I thought I was going to go free agent when it came down to the seventh round," he said. But the Bears wanted to be sure they acquired Baldwin's talents, so they pulled the trigger.
"Chicago began showing an interest in me back in February," Baldwin said. "I made a trip up there and they loved my passion for the game. They were impressed by my speed and quickness, but what they liked most was the way I gave 100-percent effort on each and every play."
He credits hard work as the reason for his accomplishments. "I played every day and … I got drafted. There's not too many players that can say they got drafted," he said.
Baldwin plans on "soaking it all in" and celebrating with his family before he hits the road for Chicago on Thursday, where he says he has a great opportunity to learn from an accomplished defensive line. His value won't end on the line, though.
"I want to be a contributor on special teams and whatever else I can do," he said.
He'll have plenty of support with friend and teammate Davis joining him in Chicago as a professional.
"I haven't had a chance to talk to him yet … (but when I do) I'll tell him congratulations and let's go to work in Chicago and take advantage of our opportunity."
Most of all, Baldwin sees the shot he has as something that goes beyond just himself.
"My dream finally came through for me and my family," he said. "It's a blessing from the man above."
This free story is just an example of the great content you'll receive everyday when you become a GSN insider. Why not sign up for a free 7-day trial right now?