Willekes’ work ethic impresses at Michigan State

NCAA Football
msu defensive end kenny willekes 080618_1533587381557.jpg.jpg

EAST LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan State football head coach Mark Dantonio announced Monday the Spartans will be without starting defensive back Josiah Scott for at least two months. 

The sophomore cornerback suffered a noncontact-related injury.

Scott’s injury was among several topics discussed as Dantonio addressed the media for almost half an hour at the team’s annual media day in East Lansing.

He was asked about the development of junior defensive end and NorthPointe Christian graduate Kenny Willekes.

“When you watch the film and he came on as a preferred walk-on, you wondered how did this kid not get a scholarship,” Dantonio said. “He understands what to do. He plays extremely hard. I think sky is the limit.”

Willekes had a breakout year in 2017. He was a third-team All-Big Ten honoree tallying seven sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss. Those numbers were both best on the Spartans’ defense.

“He’s got the most respect on the team,” junior linebacker Joe Bachie said of Willekes. “He had the most reps in spring ball and he’s still going hard as can be.”

“It’s just the way I was raised,” Willekes said when asked about his high-motor work ethic. “My dad is a heart surgeon so he’s always up, whether it’s 3 a.m. in the morning, he’s working for hours straight. He may not sleep for 48 hours straight because he’s operating, trying to save people’s lives. He just raised me to be a hardworking man. It’s just what I do.”

Muskegon graduate La’Darius Jefferson, the state’s reigning high school player of the year, has made the switch to running back as he joins the Spartans. He has had to bulk up a bit to help him at the position. Dantonio said Jefferson has put on 15 to 20 pounds. 

“You’re looking who’s going to be the third guy or fourth guy (at running back),” Dantonio said, “who’s going to be a guy who can play a bit, maybe on special teams.” 

Michigan State opens its season Aug. 31 at home against Utah State.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.