Coming off a season that saw Michigan State win 12 games and make the Final Four, as well as signing his best class as of yet, Mark Dantonio still hasn’t forgotten players from the pasts. While so many coaches dispose of past players once their eligibility is gone Dantonio doesn’t operate that way.
He has said repeatedly that, “It is about more than just winning football games. I am not naive. If you don’t win you don’t get to continue, but it is about people and relationships.
That is why when recently getting a chance to brag on his team and recruiting success, Dantonio wanted to revel in what former WR Bennie Fowler did by winning Super Bowl 50 with the Denver Broncos. Dantonio said of Fowler’s success that, “Really excited about Bennie Fowler’s experience at the Super Bowl. You go from a guy that came in in 2009 and breaking a foot and then breaking another foot. Playing a year and then breaking another foot. All of a sudden he has a tremendous senior year and then plays in a Rose Bowl and wins a Big Ten championship and the next thing you know he is in the Super Bowl. I want to say congratulations to him. Very exciting time for him, his family and Michigan State.”
While Fowler very well may have caught future Hall of Famer QB Peyton Manning’s last pass, Dantonio said he had reached out to him the day of the big game. “Yeah, I gave Bennie a call and left a message and he called me back and we talked and I just basically said what everybody tells me, ‘Enjoy the moment.’ Sometimes that’s a little harder to do than just saying that and I think that when I look back at the playoff game, that’s one thing that I don’t think I did and if I had to do it all over again I would make sure I sort of slow everything down, slow the pace down. It’s a little bit more accelerated than a big bowl game. I just wanted him to understand how special this was and just sort of, just wanted to talk to him really and just hear his voice. I think it’s exciting to have one of our players playing in the Super Bowl in his second year out of here and he’s a young player and having great success there with the Broncos. The two point conversion at the end of the game was exciting to watch, as well.”
So does Fowler making the game and having a big impact do a lot of the Spartan program? Dantonio was quick to remind people that he isn’t the only Spartan to be in a Super Bowl. Just the latest.
“We’ve had a lot of guys play in the Super Bowl, we really have. Greg Jones played in it, Devin Thomas played in it with the Giants. I think Greg Jones’ rookie year and Devin recovered a fumble in that game as well. So we’ve had quite a few players play in it. We’ve had coaches coach in it that have been part of our staff in the past. So I think it is the pinnacle of football and it’s football played at the highest level and anytime you can be associated with that it points to … I don’t know what it points to. I guess it points to excellence. Not greatness, necessarily, but excellence.”
That is why Dantonio whether you love or hate him is able to have sustained success and do at MSU what many say couldn’t be done. He is about people first and that integrity is what sets him apart.