EAST LANSING, Mich. – Four Michigan State seniors – running back Jehuu Caulcrick, offensive tackle Pete Clifford, strong safety Travis Key and linebacker Kaleb Thornhill – have been elected to serve as captains for the 2007 season. Following a nomination process, members of the team and coaching staff submitted final ballots on Wednesday, Aug. 22. First-year head coach Mark Dantonio formally introduced the team captains at the Spartan Spirit Pep Rally for incoming freshmen on Thursday, Aug. 23.
“All four guys bring unique leadership styles to the table,” Coach Dantonio said. “In addition to being solid football players, all four of these guys are good students. In fact, Pete Clifford and Travis Key have already graduated, and Jehuu Caulcrick and Kaleb Thornhill will soon complete their undergraduate degrees.
“The guys really did a good job in selecting the team captains. We really took our time in making the selections because we asked the players to review the last nine months and take into consideration the Fourth Quarter (winter conditioning) Program, spring practice, summer conditioning, the Bottom Line (preseason running tests) and preseason camp. Since the freshmen are also involved in the voting process, it was important for them to have more time to develop a good feel for identifying the team leaders.”
A three-year letterman, the 6-foot, 255-pound Caulcrick has rushed for 1,523 career yards (4.9 avg.) and 18 touchdowns. He needs five rushing TDs in 2007 to crack MSU’s all-time Top 10 in that category.
Caulcrick appeared in 11 games as a junior in 2006, including six starts. He finished third on the team in rushing with 426 yards on 108 carries (3.9 avg.). Caulcrick led the Spartans in rushing TDs for the second-straight year, scoring six times in 2006.
The Findley Lake, N.Y., native is majoring in sociology.
“Jehuu has had an outstanding preseason camp,” Dantonio said. “He’s in excellent shape, so he’s poised for a great senior season. With his personality, Jehuu will be an enthusiastic and vocal leader.”
The 6-7, 312-pound Clifford appeared in nine games in 2006, including seven starting assignments (four starts at left tackle and three at left guard). The Salem, N.H., native graded out over 90 percent in eight of his nine games. Clifford produced his top grade of the 2006 season at Northwestern, scoring 98 percent including four pancakes, as the Spartans erased a 35-point third-quarter deficit for a 41-38 victory. He earned the first start of his collegiate career at left guard in the 2006 season opener against Idaho, grading out 91 percent with two pancakes.
Clifford, who received a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies – law and society in May 2007, currently is pursuing a second bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
“Pete is an extremely hard worker, who has really molded himself into an outstanding offensive lineman,” Dantonio said. “He’s a quiet leader, who prefers to lead by his example.”
The 5-10, 185-pound Key finished sixth on the team in tackles with 42 in 2006, including 3.5 for losses (18 yards). The Three Rivers, Mich., native produced a career-best nine solo hits, including two tackles for losses (12 yards), in his first collegiate start at Penn State in the 2006 season finale. He also forced two fumbles, broke up two passes and recorded his first career sack against the Nittany Lions. His first career interception came at Northwestern and set up Brett Swenson’s game-winning field goal.
A two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection, Key earned his bachelor’s degree in packaging earlier this summer.
“Travis came here as a walk-on four years ago, earned a scholarship, and now, he’s been elected captain,” Dantonio said. “That’s quite an accomplishment. His teammates really appreciate his journey.”
The 6-1, 242-pound Thornhill has 26 career starts to his credit, including the last 21 games in a row. The Lansing, Mich., native has recorded 163 career tackles, including 10.5 for losses (24 yards). In 2006, he ranked third on the team in tackles (68) and production points (132).
A three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection, Thornhill is majoring in interdisciplinary studies in social science – human resources.
His late father Charlie played on Michigan State’s back-to-back Big Ten and National Championship teams in 1965-66, while his brother Josh was a four-year starter at linebacker for the Spartans from 1998-2001. Josh (2000-01) is one of eight players in MSU football history to have been selected as a multi-year captain.
“Kaleb has great leadership ability,” Dantonio said. “He’s a fifth-year senior, who has played in a lot of big games during his career. His late father Charlie was a great player here as was his brother Josh, so Kaleb has a keen appreciation for Michigan State’s rich football tradition.”
Michigan State’s 2007 season and home opener, Sept. 1 against UAB, will be televised by ESPN2, with kickoff set for 12 p.m. EDT.