COMMENTARY| Arthur Ray's courage and determination was one of the best Michigan State Spartans storylines in 2011. Forget just football, his story stretched well beyond one sport and well beyond athletics in general.
Ray signed with Michigan State in 2007, but fell ill to bone cancer. The chemotherapy treatments and other related medical appointments cost Ray two years of his football career. It was doubtful that Ray would ever see significant playing time at Michigan State, let alone start.
However, senior Joel Foreman stepped aside during the season-opener in 2011, giving his starting spot to Ray, who was crutch-bound for two seasons. It was a memorable moment. Ray's mother was in the stands at Spartan Stadium and got quite emotional seeing her son take the field.
But Ray's heroics aren't just appreciated by college football fans in Michigan. The Boys of Summer took time to recognize the Spartans lineman, too.
Ray was honored Tuesday at Comerica Park prior to the Detroit Tigers' 13-0 loss to the Los Angeles Angels. He told MLB.com that he's ready to play this season and help the Spartans build on their success. A bowl win and four straight victories over Michigan likely add fuel to Ray's desire to return to action.
"This is the best I've felt in the past four or five years," Ray told MLB.com. "I went through the process of trying to deal with everything as far as the cancer and the chemo and the recovery. ... I'm finally to the point where that's all behind me. I'm ready to play. I'm ready to do what I came to Michigan State to do."
Ray appeared in three games in 2011 for the Spartans, who advanced to the Big Ten Championship Game against Wisconsin, which claimed victory prior to the Spartans beating Georgia in January's Outback Bowl.
It would be great to see Ray get more time on the field, health permitting, of course. His story is quite inspiring. He could have given up football all together. But he didn't. Instead, he's looking forward to a possible sixth year of eligibility.
"Last year, it was, 'I got the diapers on,' so to speak," Ray told MLB.com. Taking baby steps, still riding with training wheels on," Ray said. "This year, there's nothing wrong with my leg. I can run, jump, skip, hop, I can do any exercise in the weight room. I'm just trying to take it one step at a time."
Ray's status for this season is unknown. He'll have to be cleared by the coaching staff in order to be given the green light to participate in camp. Whether or not Ray plays, he serves as an inspiration for the new-look, new-attitude Spartans. Impossible is possible -- a code that coach Mark Dantonio has enforced during his time in East Lansing.
Adam Biggers has followed NCAA football for over 20 years, specifically the Michigan State Spartans and Big Ten Conference. He can be found on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.
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