CHICAGO -- Michigan State defensive end Shilique Calhoun decided against riding his breakthrough 2013 season to the 2014 NFL Draft, and now we know why he elected to return for another season with the Spartans.
He wants to graduate, which factored into his decision to come back for his redshirt junior season, but he also just didn't feel ready to make the jump.
"I think the biggest thing was I wanted to get my degree," Calhoun said Monday at Big Ten Media Days. "My mom and my father ... none of them finished college. So, I wanted to be the first one in my immediate family to get my degree.
"Not only that, but I didn't feel I was ready for the NFL. I love being part of Spartan football. I love running out to Spartan Nation. It's a great feeling being alongside these guys. Kurtis Drummond, Connor Cook, Jeremy Langford. Guys like that, who are great people. I wasn't ready to give that up just yet."
Calhoun might not feel the same pull to return to Michigan State after the 2014 season. He said it's possible he'll have completed the necessary coursework to graduate with a degree in criminal justice at the end of the school year, but he wasn't making any guarantees about his long-term future Monday.
With another strong season after being selected as the 2013 Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year, he'll no doubt feel better-prepared when he considers an NFL career. Calhoun has gained weight and said he's up to 260 pounds -- he entered last season at 240 -- and also said he has a much better understanding of the game.
After recording 7.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss last season, head coach Mark Dantonio sees room for Calhoun to grow, especially in terms of dominating at the line of scrimmage.
"When you look at a football player, especially on defense, productivity is tackles and sacks and those type of things," Dantonio said Monday. "But when you're playing the defensive line, you got to be able to control the line of scrimmage and a lot of times, especially the fans, do not recognize that aspect. ... Can you control that area and be dominant? Those are the things that he's got to see. Is he a dominant player in that aspect?
"He is a playmaker. He's a leader, as well. He's got enthusiasm, and I think that spreads across our football team and bleeds into our football team, actually. It's going to be all good."
If Calhoun goes from great to dominant in 2014, degree in hand or not, NFL teams in need of a boost up front on defense will be clamoring for him to make the jump he didn't feel ready for last winter.