When Kirk Cousins sat in the locker room Jan. 2 after Michigan State’s 33-30 triple-overtime victory against Georgia in the Outback Bowl, it hit him.

After five years, his stellar career with the Spartans, whom he quarterbacked for three seasons, was completed.

“The further I remove myself from my student-athlete experience, the more I will come to appreciate what I had at Michigan State,” said Cousins, who led the Spartans to a school-record 27 victories as quarterback. “I realize how blessed I was to be a part of Michigan State’s football program and a part of their university.”

Cousins, who was part of an educational session at the NCAA Convention on Wednesday titled, “Students First: Giving student-athletes the experience they deserve,” said it was particularly satisfying to scan the scene in the victorious locker room and see his fellow seniors enjoying the final moment of their collegiate athletics careers.

“I saw so many of my teammates who I came to college with back in 2007, and we had no clue what it meant to be a Division I student-athlete and all it involved,” Cousins said. “I was able to see the growth that took place in the classroom and the amount we grew as a result of playing sports.”

Cousins, who plans to attend medical school, believes the experiences on the field will be invaluable to him as he grows older.

“Arguably, we learned more through our athletics involvement than we did in the classroom in terms of what will help us going forward in life,” Cousins said. “That is simply because of the opportunities that being an athlete in the Big Ten Conference and at Michigan State afforded us.”

Cousins was asked to describe his overall experience at Michigan State in one word. His response was, “Challenge.”

“My experience at Michigan State took a lot out of me, but it was rewarding,” Cousins said. “The expectations for athletes on and off the field in the collegiate realm have risen. The resources and the opportunities available to us have risen, as well.

“I wish individually I would have enjoyed it more and taken stock of the resources and opportunities I had and appreciated where I was at the time.”