Andrew Maxwell was walking on Michigan States campus last year when a female student approached. She asked to take a picture with him.
"You know Im not Kirk, right?" he replied.
No, Andrew Maxwell is not Kirk Cousins, who won 27 games as a starter for the Spartans, overcame his limited athleticism to become a fourth-round NFL Draft pick and delivered a speech at last years Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon that was so gracious (he used the word "privilege" 23 times), college fans momentarily forgot about the dirty doings at places like Ohio State and Miami.
In other words, Cousins set an impossible standard.
"He was the real deal," Maxwell said. "Everything that people saw from the outside, he was the same way inside. You could not hand-pick a better guy to learn from." Maxwell learned from him in 2009 as a redshirt on the scout team. And as his backup in 2010. And 2011.
What was Maxwells top take-away?
"Preparation," he replied. "The work he put in Sunday to Friday. People see the product on Saturdays, but they dont see him after practice on a Wednesday night, when everyones eating dinner and hes back in the quarterbacks room to watch practice or third-down cutups."
Maxwell now shifts from student to starter. The quarterbacks job is his.
"He cant worry about what somebody else has done," coach Mark Dantonio said. "He has to understand there will be mistakes made. Kirk made mistakes too. Thats a part of growth."
Said linebacker Max Bullough: "We respect Kirk and everything he did here. But Maxwell is his own guy. He is not filling Kirks shoes, just like I didnt fill Greg Jones shoes. Its the Andrew Maxwell era at Michigan State. I have no doubt in him. He has an incredible arm some guys argue he has a bigger arm than Kirk and I believe he does too and also the ability to get out of pressure."
And make smart choices.
Asked if he always has played quarterback, Maxwell replied: "Heres a story for you."
The Midland, Mich., native played under center from age 8 to 11 but got bored with handing off. After playing some defensive end, linebacker and running back, he planned to play receiver in high school. Had his high school coach, Eric Methner, not said, "Play catch with me" and then "hop in the quarterback line" during a summer camp, Maxwell wouldnt be guiding the Spartans offense.
Maxwells grandparents are Michigan State graduates, and he grew up going to Spartan Stadium. Dantonio offered him a scholarship after his sophomore season in high school.
"I hadnt been all that successful to that point," Maxwell recalled, "but they saw something in me. That meant a lot." Now Dantonio sees a 6-foot-3, 212-pound quarterback he describes as "composed and mature."
Said Maxwell: "Im excited to see if I am the player I think I am, the player Ive been in practice. Its not the same until those bright lights are on."