While quarterback Kirk Cousins will catch up with his former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, he will also have the chance to face off with his former Michigan State teammate Brian Hoyer.
Among some of the notable storylines surrounding the Redskins' matchup with the 49ers (namely, former coaches and players facing off with their previous teams), Sunday's game also marks the first time that Kirk Cousins will face off with his former Michigan State mentor, now 49ers starting quarterback, Brian Hoyer, in a regular season game.
During Cousins' first two years with the Spartans, Hoyer was the starting quarterback in East Lansing, leading the team to the Capital One Bowl in 2009 and grooming the future Redskins starter to take over for him before signing with the Patriots to start his career.
In the years since, Cousins has met Hoyer just once on the opposing sideline, during a preseason game against the Browns, and missed him last year in Chicago, when Matt Barkley filled in for Hoyer due to an injury.
"I remember when I arrived to Michigan State just being very impressed with the way he threw the football," Cousins said of Hoyer. "I'd never been around a guy who threw it that well and Brian was really talented as a passer and that's why he's played as long as he has in the NFL."
On a team that also featured quarterback Nick Foles for a year until he transferred to Arizona, Cousins felt as though NFL-caliber quarterbacks at Michigan State -- following the successful college career of Drew Stanton -- were the norm.
"I just assumed everybody was that good and everybody had an arm," Cousins said. "Oh man, this is tough competition. As time has proven, I've realized that not every school in the Big Ten or the country had that many quarterbacks like that, who ended up playing in the NFL for that long. It was a unique experience, a lot of competition; I think it made us all better."
Hoyer finished his Michigan State career as a consensus honorable mention All-Big Ten selection ranking among the Spartans' career leaders in pass attempts (No. 2 at 896), passing yards (No. 3 with 6,159) and pass completions (No. 3 at 500). Cousins, meanwhile, remains the all-time record holder in passing touchdowns (66), passing yards (9,131), completions (723) for the school.
Check out these photos of the Redskins' offense preparing for their Week 6 game against the San Francisco 49ers Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.
Their careers in the NFL have taken diverging paths. Hoyer is on his seventh team in the league following stints in New England, Pittsburgh, Arizona, Cleveland, Houston and Chicago, while Cousins has grown into a starting quarterback with the team that drafted him in 2012.
"Brian was a great mentor," Cousins said. "I had so much to learn when I came out of high school and he was so far ahead of me, so I just enjoyed watching, learning. There's still things that I remember today that he told me when I was a freshman at Michigan State about different ways to use protections or how to throw a certain route that still have stuck with me and I still use it today as a tip or reminder."
Cousins said the two will occasionally text each other, along with Stanton, about Michigan State games and chat about the future of the program.
"It's been fun because when I first met [Brian] he was only dating his now wife and now he's married with three kids," Cousins said. "So life just keeps going. It's amazing how we were totally different people 10 years ago when we first met."
Following Michigan State's victory of the University of Michigan last Saturday, Cousins remembered the feeling of stealing the Paul Bunyan Trophy in the Big House as a senior, at the time the Spartans' first victory at Michigan Stadium in 18 years.
"Any away game that you win, a flight home after the Rams game, is a thrill, but when you beat Michigan, it's about an hour and 15 [minute] bus ride from Ann Arbor back to East Lansing, it's a pretty good feeling walking out of that stadium hearing 'Go Green, Go White,' being chanted across the stadium in the Big House," Cousins said. "It's just a beautiful thing when you win in the state and you know for the next 12 months you've kind of solidified bragging rights for your fan base. We say we walk the streets not the alleys when we win the game, so it's fun when you know you're going to walk the streets for the next 12 months."