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Mark Dantonio begins his tenth season teaching young Spartans, still “humbled to be here”

Lou Anna K. Simon, Mark Dantonio, Mark Hollis

“It reaffirms what you’re trying to do,” Spartans football coach Mark Dantonio tells Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon and Spartans Athletic Director Mark Hollis on MSU Today in discussing his players and other Spartan athletes being recognized at MSU Athletics’ annual Academic Excellence Gala. “It can’t be all about football.

“When you look at the goals of our program, we have to win; I understand that. But part of this is about growth as people.”

Simon, Hollis and Dantonio talk about the value of study abroad to all MSU students, including student-athletes.

“These are important life experiences because we want our students to have enough knowledge of the world to affect public policy in a positive way and to be leaders. So they have to have a variety of experiences, and some of them have risks to them,” says Simon.

The risk of concussions is an issue all of college football is looking to address.

“It’s a contact game, and quite honestly big hits are celebrated by everyone involved in this sport. You have to be able to manage it and practice effectively to minimize the risks,” adds Dantonio.

“I think the biggest thing when you look at concussions is the younger the player, the longer you should hold them out. The older the player, the quicker they overcome it.”

“And if football can be a vanguard and a voice for getting more parents to pay attention to this regardless of what sport their kids play, then it’s a great service,” Simon adds.

When queried by Hollis, Dantonio admits that as a graduate assistant at Kansas, he never imagined the breadth of areas he’d have to manage as a football coach.

“You get pulled away sometimes from the things that brought you into coaching to do more administrative work. I’ve tried to grow in my position yearly and always try to look outside the box and try to make sure we’re empowering people and allowing people to grow.”

Coming out of the spring game, Coach D says “We have a football team that expects to win, and they’re motivated about that. We’ve lost some good players who we’ll miss, but that’s the cycle of college athletics.

“We have a very good young team, and the expectations are high. We tackle well on the perimeter on the defensive side of the ball, we have some big-play wide receivers, three very good backs, our quarterback situation is solid. We didn’t lose a coach again this year.

“We’ve tried to critique what we’ve done and get a little bit better. So we’re going to find out about all this as we get into August, but I feel good about our football team.”

Coach D talks about this year’s challenging and exciting schedule that includes a game at Notre Dame and home games with Wisconsin, BYU, Michigan and Ohio State.

“I enjoy the fact that we’re a program to be contended with. We’ll be a program to be contended with for years to come because you’ve built the depth and recruited kids of quality,” says Simon. “It’s critical for a university to have the right people with the right values always building toward a sustainable program.”

“I really think that coaching is teaching. Truly if you get into coaching, you need to get into it for the right reasons,” says Dantonio. “As long as you maintain that approach, empower your players and help them over achieve, and provide them growth as people, you hope that’s what ultimately defines you.

“It’s great to see our players’ dreams come true, and it’s great to see our dreams come true – all of ours. We’ll keep trying to move in that direction, and I’m just humbled to be here.”

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