Dantonio on Legacy, What Keeps Him Going, Family Atmosphere

Dantonio with a big smile.  Spring game 2014.  Photo courtesy of Mark Boomgard
Dantonio with a big smile. Spring game 2014. Photo courtesy of Mark Boomgard

For Mark Dantonio, #5 Michigan State’s success during his 11 years run as head coach of the Spartanshas certainly made his tenure an enjoyable one, but what keeps Dantonio going goes beyond just the game of football and the impact he makes on his players and those around the program off the field.

In a recent sit-down interview with Spartan Nation, Dantonio spoke on a number of different topics as he and the Spartans prepare for the 2018 campaign including his legacy and taking pride in making an impact on people off the field.

Dantonio said that while he takes pride in what’s been accomplished on the field, he wants his players to see himself and his staff as good people first and foremost and feels that has played a sizable role in Michigan State’s success during his time in East Lansing.

“I think it’s important that our players see us as real people and not people who just come in here to coach and spend the day and clock out,” he said. “The players that come here, they see us as people, as fathers, they see us as husbands. We’ve had a great staff here, we continue to have a great staff here, we have a lot of continuity and I think it’s because we have good people and that’s what we want to attract here. We want good people as players - high morals - we’re going to have problems, that’s known, we’re going to have problems and we’ve got to solve those problems, or correct when correction is needed because the world’s not perfect. But we’re going to try and strive toward not just being good coaches, but good people as well.”

Dantonio recorded his 100th win as Michigan State head coach in the Spartans’ win over Washington State in the Holiday Bowl, making him the 14th coach in Big Ten Conference history to win 100 games. Dantonio’s 100 wins is second most in program history, just shy of Duffy Daugherty’s school record 109 wins.

But for someone like Dantonio, who doesn’t usually like to talk about himself or his individual achievements, he remains focused on the present and making a positive impact on the people in and around the program and understands that he needs to be a rock for the Spartans when they hit bumps in the road along the way.

“I just take it one day at a time here, I’m trying to live in the present,” he said. “I think what I’ve tried to do for our players and what I’ve asked our players to do is try and be a light for people. I’m going to do my best every day to try and bring it and try to make it special. That’s what I try to do, hopefully, that’s what our players try to do and usually, when you do that, things work out, you get the best in people. That’s what we try to do here and it’s not that we don’t have problems, everybody, every culture, everywhere in the world today you see people going like this and then they take a dip, but it’s how we respond when we hit those dips and I’ve always tried to be at my very best when we’ve been down.”

Another way that Michigan State has become more of a family environment for Dantonio is that his wife, Becky, has become more involved on a regular basis with the football team, something that Mark said he suggested to his wife before the start of the 2017 season.

“It’s sort of interesting because last year, I encouraged her to get more involved,” he said. “Our kids are out, and I said, ‘You need to get more involved’, so she’s taken on a couple of guys and sort of mentored them a little bit. She’s helped some guys in certain situations that they need to be helped in. We had a couple of guys who didn’t have their driver’s license - one well known, but she’s helped do those things for them. She sits in the training room a little bit, they got her a pair of scissors, so she sits and jokes around with them a little bit, she doesn’t use the scissors, no liability issues, but she has become a little bit more involved and I think that’s good for our players to see. I think it’s healthy for a player to see that and it’s not just healthy for our players, it’s healthy for the Dantonio’s as well and for Becky as well because they’re an extension of our family.”

With the Spartans returning 19 of their 22 starters from last year’s team, there is a renewed energy and optimism about Michigan State as there are high expectations for the 2018 season.

Dantonio said that he’s already seen and felt a positive energy about his team as they prepare for the upcoming season and added that he’s looking forward to seeing his players grow as football players and as people.

“I came in the other day, it was the first day back with all of our players here and it was a great excitement in the room just being in the room with them and it was good, it was fun,” he said. “Like I said, I’m going to live in the present and I enjoy my job, I enjoy having an impact on people and I enjoy watching young people grow and that’s what’s happened here. Every year whether you have a problem or don’t have a problem you see people grow and that’s all you can hope for.”

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