On the weekend before two-a-days started at Walnut Ridge, defensive lineman Robert Bowers called the Michigan State coaching staff to tell them that he was verbally committing to be a part of their 2014 recruiting class.

He also made a call that weekend that he'll likely never forget.

On Aug. 2, the day before he made his verbal commitment official, he told his cousin, Tommy Butler, over the phone that he was getting close to committing to Michigan State.

On Aug. 4, the day after he talked with Michigan State, he found out that Butler had passed away.

"I called my cousin and told him that I was wanting to commit," Bowers said. "He was my best cousin in the world and helped out a lot when I was younger. He's originally from Chicago but died in Columbus the (day after I verballed). I couldn't breathe when I found out."

Bowers, a 6-5, 210-pounder who is one inch taller and weighs the same as 2011 Walnut Ridge graduate Austin Traylor did when he verballed to Wisconsin, also will probably see some time at tight end this fall.

He also considered Purdue, Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Louisville.

"I liked everything about it," Bowers said. "I liked how (Michigan State) was a football atmosphere and I liked the way the players had a good relationship with a couple of the coaches. They've got a good academic school and they have one of the best defenses in the country."