After a season spent feasting on Big Ten quarterbacks and running backs and earning second-team All-America honors, Michigan State defensive end Shilique Calhoun had millions of dollars staring him in the face via the NFL draft.

But the redshirt junior said he wasn't quite ready to go pro. He had a piece of family business to attend to before playing in the NFL.

Calhoun said receiving hardware for his on-field accomplishments doesn't mean much, but there is one goal he is striving to attain.

[Neither] my mom nor my father got their degrees. I wanted to be the first one in my immediate family to get my degree.
-- Shilique Calhoun

"[Neither] my mom nor my father got their degrees," said Calhoun, who had 7 1/2 sacks last season. "None of them finished college. I wanted to be the first one in my immediate family to get my degree."

The Spartans certainly are glad Calhoun is back. The nation's second-ranked defense carried them last season to their first Rose Bowl victory since 1988. But with some key members gone -- including cornerback Darqueze Dennard and linebacker Max Bullough -- the onus is on Calhoun to keep the motor revving.

Coach Mark Dantonio said that should not be a problem.

"He's an enthusiastic player, so he always has a motor," Dantonio said. "Even if you come out to practice, he's got a motor. If you see a guy working at the end of practice, it's Shilique Calhoun. If he's outside working by himself, there's Shilique Calhoun. He's motivated. He has that innate hunger."

He also has a desire to enjoy his college years while they last, and that, along with his determination to get a degree, helped persuade Calhoun he should stick around a little longer.

"I love being a part of Spartan football. I love running out to Spartan Nation," Calhoun said. "It's a great feeling being alongside these guys.

"When there's millions of dollars you say, 'Well, maybe I should go.' But I wanted to get my degree. Second, I love playing with these guys, laughing, all the moments we have. I'm not ready to give that up yet."

Mike Carter | USA TODAY Sports Images
Michigan State's Shilique Calhoun pressures Youngstown State QB Kurt Hess.
Michigan State wasn't on the national radar a year ago, and that fueled the Spartans' work ethic throughout the season.

Now, after Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller's season-ending shoulder injury, the Spartans can no longer lay claim to being underdogs, at least not in the Big Ten. The inspiration may come from another place this season.

"When it comes to Coach D, that face he gives you when he's mad, you don't want to see that," Calhoun said. "I've seen it once or twice."

But Calhoun still wanted to come back for more.

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