By now, you may have seen the story about the Auburn football recruit — a kid named Cassanova, no less — who says part of the reason he passed on signing to play at Clemson was the lack of a Chick-Fil-A fast-food joint on campus. (He might have a point, actually.)
At Michigan State, the talk on national signing day was about a different fast food, however. It was about squirrels.
”You might want to ask Coach Staten how the fried squirrel was,” MSU defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi told a group of us as he talked about some of the Spartans’ new recruits. “I think there’s some interesting things there you can write about.”
So, naturally, Mark Staten, the team’s offensive line coach, was asked about eating fried squirrel during a home visit with the family of Zach Higgins, the 6-5, 305-pound guard from Marlington, Ohio, a rural community about a half-hour from Canton. And the verdict?
“Squirrel is delicious,” Staten said. “It was fried squirrel, and then the dumplings. Usually it’s squirrel and dumplings, if you haven’t had that. It tastes like chicken, truly tastes like chicken. … When they said it was squirrel I grabbed and just started eating. It was good. I wasn’t worried about it. It was actually really good.”
It wasn’t the only memorable home-cooked meal Michigan State coaches had at the Higgins home. (“They’re just blue-collar, good people,” Staten said. “It fits our mold.”) Zach’s father, Cecil, is an avid hunter, as are his three football-playing sons. (A former millwright at Chrysler, Cecil Higgins actually shot a 900-pound bear in Russia last year.) Zach’s mother, Kim, meanwhile, “is an amazing cook,” said Narduzzi, who brought head coach Mark Dantonio with him on at least one occasion.
“We’ve had some great visits at the house,” Narduzzi said. “I didn’t get the squirrel — I’m really disappointed about it — but I got some of those unbelievable apple dumplings. And I had some venison stew, some fried chicken.”
So life on the road isn’t all bad, you see.
“I’m looking forward to when Zach comes back from home sometime and brings squirrel pot-pie for the guys to try,” Staten said. “That will add some smiles in the room.”
Then he added with a laugh, “If you ever have the chance to have squirrel, have squirrel. It’s pretty tasty. There’s a lot them around here in East Lansing, too, you know what I mean? You’ve got a chance in the car today.”