EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan State offensive tackle Fou Fonoti, who suffered a season-ending foot injury two days prior to the Spartans’ Sept. 15 home game against Notre Dame, plans to take a medical redshirt and return for the 2013 season. Fonoti announced his decision during an interview for this week’s episode of “Spartan Football All-Access” that aired Sunday night on FOX Sports Detroit.
The 6-foot-4, 296-pound Fonoti, a second-year player from Cerritos (Calif.) College, started the last 11 games of the 2011 season and the first two contests of the 2012 campaign at right tackle.
“It was really tough to get injured in a Thursday practice – a light workout geared to clean everything up,” Fonoti said. “It was difficult to accept the fact that I wouldn’t be playing in an important game against Notre Dame. I really struggled with it mentally; and had to accept the fact and the reality that I might be out (of the lineup) for some time. It hurt because I felt like I had let my teammates down.
“When I first got injured, I knew that at some point and time I’d have to weigh my options. When I made the decision to transfer here from junior college, I thought of it as a two-year investment. I was prepared to deal with being so far away from my family in Southern California. So when this opportunity presented itself, I immediately thought about spending another year away from home, but I continued to pray about it. I talked to my girlfriend and her family as well as my mom and my entire family. We discussed all the options. And as tough as it was, in my heart, I had a straightforward answer: ‘I’ve got to come back.’ When I signed that National Letter of Intent (in February 2011), I devoted my everything to being a Spartan, and I haven’t fulfilled my expectations yet. I’ve decided to come back and look forward to competing with these guys again next season. I’m really excited about the 2013 season. I see this injury as a blessing in disguise.
“(Linebacker) Max Bullough always encourages us to pursue greatness, and we have to develop the attitude that we won’t be denied,” Fonoti continued. “It’s been difficult to watch my teammates go through this grind and all of those nail-biting losses, but we remain positive. A lot of teams face adversity during the course of a season, but the important thing is how a team responds. I feel like we have ingredients to have a great team next year. Guys will remember how this season feels and all of the struggles, but we’ll be positioned to take a huge step forward.”
“Fou Fonoti is one of the emotional leaders for our football team,” MSU head coach Mark Dantonio said. “He’s an excitable person that brings a lot of passion to the game. It’s a tremendous advantage to have him back for another season, and we’re excited about his decision. He’ll be able to graduate and enhance his chances to possibly play professional football. Fou can play a variety of positions on the offensive line, so he isn’t locked into playing tackle.”
“Fou’s ability to stay an extra year will help us tremendously,” offensive line coach Mark Staten said. “He has game experience, a high football IQ and great leadership ability. Fou has the unique ability to pull the best out of everybody around him. He will help make the 2013 season very special.
“It’s been very, very tough for Fou to watch the majority of this season from the sidelines. Fortunately, he’s been able to travel to a few road games. His presence around the team is invaluable. He’s been very helpful in meetings as well. Fou can help the younger guys understand why certain things are happening on the defensive line, like adjusting to fronts and blitz packages. He also can help them understand why the double team has to stay on as long as it does or when the timing is right to come off a lineman and take on a linebacker.”
“Fou’s decision to come back is huge for us in a lot of respects,” junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell said. “He’s obviously an experienced player, but he also provides great leadership. Fou is one of the most well-liked and most-respect guys on the team, so he has a real presence in the locker room. Having him back in the locker room for another year is really going to give the team a boost.
“It’s definitely a plus any time you have a lineman return with over a year of starting experience under his belt. He’s battled in the trenches. Fou is a guy you can count on and trust to know what’s going on and play a physical brand of football. When you have a veteran like that returning to the lineup, it adds a lot of confidence for the quarterback.”
The 5-5 Spartans have two games left in the regular season: Nov. 17 home finale against Northwestern and Nov. 24 at Minnesota. Michigan State, 2-4 in Big Ten play, has lost four conference games by a combined total of 10 points. All four of those games have been decided by four points or less.
“Coach Dantonio often describes football as being a game decided by inches,” Fonoti said. “So it’s been frustrating to watch all of the close losses from the sideline, knowing things are out of my control. There have been times that I just wanted to run out there and sacrifice my body for these guys. Despite the adversity we’re going through this season, I will continue to remain fully engaged and be an emotional leader for these guys. We still have some games to win.”