For much of the season, the bodies of Michigan State basketball players appeared brittle.

One by one, players went down but not out. They suffered a plethora of injuries, none season-ending. A sprained ankle here, plantar fasciitis there. A lingering wrist injury. A broken bone in a hand.

One by one, they came to Quinton Sawyer, the Spartans' third-year trainer and the one tasked with putting Humpty Dumpty back together again.

"In my 10 years of working as an athletic trainer, it's definitely the most injuries I've seen for one team in one season," says Sawyer, who has previously worked with the men's basketball teams at North Carolina and Campbell University and has even interned with the Denver Broncos. "We were very fortunate in the respect that we didn't lose anyone for the year. That was a good thing. We had things that were manageable.

"Fortunately, here we are at crunch time when it counts, the Sweet 16, with the entire roster healthy."

Yes, thanks to Sawyer — nicknamed "Q" — the Michigan State team that began the season is expected to contend for a national championship.

"He's getting my bonus if I get one," Spartans coach Tom Izzo says. "He's done a heck of a job. I love the guy right now. I hug and kiss him every day. He got us through it, and he kept me sane — some of the time."

This, after injuries and illnesses plagued much of Michigan State's regular season; only a few times did the Spartans show a glimpse of a true title contender. Izzo has used 15 different starting lineups this season, many resulting in exasperation.

By March, Izzo had gotten so sick of talking about injuries and how they'd decimated his roster, he gave up discussing them for Lent. Still, his chatter — and that of pundits local and national — had thrust someone who normally works behind the scenes into the spotlight, even indirectly.

"It definitely added a little stress to me personally," Sawyer said. "I understand that every time someone mentions this team's potential and the hurdles of injuries, that is directly a conversation about me and the ability for me to do my job effectively.

"It's a little added pressure, but that's not something I run from."

Sawyer's parents stressed out about it more often than he did; every time they read an article about the Spartans' growing disabled list, they'd call Sawyer to see how he was holding up. It was a valid question, considering all the extra time he was putting in.

"We still try to have our hours of operation, so to speak," Sawyer says. "But they've definitely expanded this year. My availability to these guys is pretty much around the clock anyways. It's been necessary this year because we've had so many different types of injuries."

Sawyer has driven players to specialists throughout Michigan to get injuries checked out. He's opened his hotel room, turning it into the de-facto athletic training room. On a typical game day he starts taping, stretching and working with players more than three hours before tip-off. Even though some injuries, such as broken bones, heal and don't require any more attention, there are some that linger and others that require preventive care.

"I'm still going through probably a dozen rolls of tape (a day), taping ankles," he says.

"Q's been killing it," sophomore forward Matt Costello says. "He's taken care of everybody, and everybody's come back strong and ready to play."

Each player who missed time due to an injury handled it differently, Sawyer says, which taught him how to handle the different personalities on the team. It also taught him how different people handle life's unfortunate situations.

Only two players — Denzel Valentine and Gavin Schilling — have played in every game this season for the Spartans. Sawyer jokes that they deserve the Iron Man award.