If Brad Van Pelt wasn't Michigan State's all time greatest athlete then who was? Will we ever see a seven letter athlete again? A guy who starred in three sports? It just doesn't happen. Will MSU ever have the college football player of the year again? Maybe, but Van Pelt won the Maxwell Award in 1972 as a defensive back and will a DB ever win such an honor anywhere in America again?
For all of his athletic success, post football was tough for the 57-year old Van Pelt, whose dad also died prematurely. He always wanted to be an MSU assistant coach but never got hired. He finally returned to school in 1998 to get his degree, but that didn't help. He did some coaching in the Harrison area where he was living and where he was found on Tuesday after havinig passed away. His fiance, who he'd been with for 15 years, found him slumped in a chair.
Brad had proposed to her in front of 1,200 people last May at the Father Mac Dinner at the Breslin Center. They were trying to figure out where he'd be working in the future and when the right time for a wedding would be. They never came up with an answer. Brad wasn't happy when his son, Bradlee, didn't make it as a quarterback under head coach Bobby Williams at Michigan State and so he transferred and starred at Colorado State. I don't think Brad ever got over that episode in his life.
Among his best friends-- Gary Ganakas and John Shinsky. He played with them both at MSU, Gary in basketball and John in football. He was also close with football's Joe DeLamielleure and Shinsky asked them to ride with him on bikes to his Mexican orphanage to raise money. Brad declined thinking he wasn't in good enough physical shape.
In 14 years in the NFL he barely missed a game and was voted the New York Giants' best player of the '70s. He played in ten pro bowls. He was named to the MSU sports hall of fame in 2000 and the College football hall of fame the following year. He was nominated for the pro football hall in 2005 but never enshrined as DeLamielleure was.
Duffy Daugherty recruited him hard-- Brad caddied for the coach whenever he played his beloved Owosso Country Club. And Van Pelt was Duffy's last captain before he retired after the 1972 season.