Michigan state football signatory Alex VanSumeren possesses a power of a rare kind

ESSEXVILLE, MI – Before even knowing what the will was, Alex VanSumeren was gushing about it.

No mission has ever been too difficult, too trying or too tiring to accomplish.

And so the new Michigan State University soccer player was able to learn to throw with the left hand just for a shot at taking the Little League mound at the age of 12.

“He had arm issues that year so he worked with his dad in the backyard all season, learning to throw with his other hand,” said Nate Volk, who coached VanSumeren in the Harpham Chiropractic Team at Bay City Southwest Little League.

“The other kids were laughing when he took the mound. He was wearing a left handed glove and he looked awesome on him. And that was a good team that we were up against, a team that kicked the ball all over the place – and he took them out 1-2-3. No one was laughing after the first batter.

“If he had come out and collapsed face down, it’s still the thought that counts. And the dedication and effort that goes into it is what Alex is all about.

When VanSumeren decided to become a Division I college football player, few who knew about the Essexville Garber phenomenon considered it an impossible ambition. With his will, there has always been a way.

With the left hand that went on strike after an unlikely strike as a strong-minded Little Leaguer in 2016, VanSumeren wrote his signature on the national letter of intent that officially made him part of the MSU football program.

The 6-foot-3, 300-pound defensive lineman invited a small group to Tank Elite Performance, the Saginaw training center where VanSumeren has been training since eighth grade, for his signing ceremony on Wednesday.

After completing the Garber graduation requirement in four days of school, he plans to move to East Lansing as the first enrolled in the state of Michigan. There, he will unite with his big brother Ben VanSumeren, linebacker in his first year with the Spartans.

And a new mission begins for Alex VanSumeren.

Best recruits

VanSumeren became one of the nation’s top defensive linemen during his four-year college career with the Garber Dukes.

He made 48 saves with 11 tackles for loss as a senior, harassing the quarterback for 28 carries and six sacks while winning the All-State First Team for the third year in a row. He is a two-time MLive Bay City Defensive Player of the Year and became the first player in Golden Helmet’s 57-year history to win four weekly honors.

This season has not gone as well as expected for VanSumeren and the Dukes. Garber ended the season on a three-game losing streak and came out 5-5 and VanSumeren has missed most of the last three games with a shoulder injury. He failed to match his junior season’s production as opponents increasingly turned to the DI prospect.

“At this point in your career, teams are going to plan for you, plan for you,” he said. “You’re going to see doubles and trebles, but you can still have an impact on the game. If you take blockers and someone else makes the game, you’ve done your job.

“(Double-team blocking) was kind of a thing every game, every game. It gets frustrating, but you have to understand that they don’t do this to everyone, so I see that as a mark of respect to me as a player.

Garber’s Alex VanSumeren (21) heads to the locker room ahead of a game against John Glenn on Friday, October 8, 2021.Boomer Kaytie | MLive.com

Through it all, VanSumeren’s training program has become legendary. He has occasionally posted videos on social media of his passing stroke drills and behind-the-scenes work on form and technique. He also enjoys “breaking weights” as a workout demon.

“It’s certainly not easy, but I’m disciplined enough to know that’s what I need to do,” he said. “You cannot be indulgent with yourself, and it takes a lot of effort and concentration. “

As a result, VanSumeren rose to No. 26 nationwide in 247Sports.com’s defensive lineman rankings in the class of 2022. He has received scholarship offers from heavy hitters such as Alabama, Clemson, Auburn. , Texas A&M, Penn State, Stanford and Suite.

After initially giving a verbal pledge to Jim Harbaugh and the University of Michigan, he changed courses last winter and landed at Michigan State. When he officially signed with the Spartans on Wednesday, it capped a trip of many years in the making.

Grass roots

VanSumeren’s sports resume started out old-fashioned, playing in the yard and aisle with his big brother. Cindy and Jeff VanSumeren’s sons were both highly skilled – and highly competitive – at a young age.

“I bought them a video game system when they were little and it sat in a box for a year before I put it in and plug it in,” VanSumeren said. “They were always out doing something.”

In a family that emphasizes moral values ​​such as faith and a work ethic – dad is a police officer and mum is an educator – Alex learned early on that he was meant to earn everything he had. Trying to follow a brother who is three and a half years old has helped to make this point clear.

Alex Van Sumeren

Alex VanSumeren is heading for a season of high expectations at Essexville Garber.

“They had a backyard football league and I could see the pitch through our back window,” said Jeff VanSumeren. “I stayed in the house and took care of Alex because he was three or four years younger than the other children. He took his licks, but he also served them.

Alex said he hadn’t spent his entire youth in a headache, but Ben hasn’t been kind to him either.

“He was a really good influence on me, a good role model,” Alex said. “He’s been tough on me and he’s always been very competitive. It all really helped me along the way.

Like Ben, Alex excelled playing basketball at Zion Lutheran in elementary and middle school, playing football in the Bay Area Youth Football League and with the Essexville Jags, and playing baseball at the Southwest Little League. .

Not just the big kid, VanSumeren played point guard, running back and shortstop, displaying top athleticism. But he also displayed a rare level of determination to do things that many thought were unlikely.

Learning to throw for a left-handed person is the perfect illustration of this.

“Just athletically to be able to do this is remarkable, but having the dedication to do it is what sets him apart,” said Volk, who witnessed the VanSumeren signing wearing his 2016 Harpham Chiropractic baseball cap.

“He’s the only kid I remember at that age who never took a moment’s rest. He tried hard all the time, aspiring every moment to try to improve himself.

Mission accomplished

Between the highlights of college basketball in 2017, VanSumeren typed his first “recruiting” post on Twitter. After Ben in Missouri, he posed for a photo wearing a Mizzou uniform.

It wouldn’t be long before these recruiting trips were his and his college football mission began.

Alex Van Sumeren

Essexville Garber coach Jake Coquillard stands alongside Alex VanSumeren after signing with Michigan State University football team.

Seeing Ben’s experience, a seed was planted in Alex’s head that ‘this is what I do,’ said Jeff VanSumeren. ‘You kind of take it with a grain of salt, but then it starts to progress and all of a sudden it’s a reality and it’s here.

“You want your kids to be passionate about something, to set goals and to work. And I hope these dreams will be achieved. The difference between dreams and reality is taking action, and they both did it – alone. They were never pushed by me or Cindy. It is not something that we have ever considered for them.

But Alex had big plans for himself and he laid the foundation for his lofty goals with a work ethic, passion and will that have long distinguished him.

“When he was playing in the backyard – and that’s where it all came from – it was always ‘One more’,” said Jeff VanSumeren. “Whether I was hitting him a ball or throwing a ball at him, it was always ‘One more, daddy.’ If I had a dime for every time I heard that, I would be a rich man.

“And he still does today. Yesterday in the aisle I was there with him while he was working on the rushing moves, and I said “I’m done” and he said “No, one more”. The child never stops.

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