Pro Day Brings Good and Bad Moments For Mark Dantonio….
When you have known Mark Dantonio as long as I have, you understand not just how he coaches but also how he thinks. I love the way Mark approaches being a coach. With every commitment he promises that young man’s family to treat their son, the way he would have wanted his son to be treated if he had one. He means it.
Dantonio personally lists as his two biggest job objectives 1) Graduating players 2) Developing men. Now don’t think Dantonio is stupid. He is far from hit. He knows that wins and losses will determine his success or failure, but he sees things from a different prism.
He told Spartan Nation back in 2008, “I know that I will be judged by wins. I am competitive, I played those are of great significance to me as well. I also know that when God brings you to this position you have to realize that he expects success and wins are part of that, but not all of it. I don’t want to use these young men. If I am only about winning and losing I would be using them. I care for them. I want them to get a degree and to be functional and great contributors to society as men, fathers and husbands when they leave here. If I concentrate on them as individuals first, not on just football then I think that is a great plan for success.” I agree with him.
So as Dantonio stood with Pittsburgh Steelers head coach on Wednesday at MSU Pro Day and surveyed all 32 teams on the MSU campus to check out this year’s crop of draft eligible Spartans it was a bittersweet day.
Dantonio addressed the bittersweet aspect of Pro Day. “Yeah, you know I’m a realist. So when they decide that they leave, that’s over. We need to go recruit another guy and we need to move on. But what I will miss….I’ll miss that interaction with our guys. That seeing Will Gholson walk down the hall with that big smile on his face. Le’Veon playing around, just jabbing at me or something. So I’m gonna miss those things. I’m gonna miss Johnny Adams and his competitive nature. I’m gonna miss those guys. But that’s a part of this, and when they decide to go the best thing we can always do is look forward. Don’t look back, look forward, be happy for them, and help them in any way we can.”
Does Dantonio allow himself to think what if? LeVeon Bell, William Gholston and Dion Sims all had eligibility left when they declared for the draft and none of them are projected as first rounders. “Yeah, exactly right. But at the same time, when they come you hope for the best for them. You don’t want to be selfish. I’ve said this before when they decided to go out as a head football coach or as a position coach or even as a fan. You can’t be selfish and think that they’ve gotta be here to play for us and for me. You gotta look at the big picture, and the big picture for them is that they thought that was best. They made that decision and you have to support those decisions. That’s a part of life here and that’s what we’ll do.”
So as the NFL invaded his facility did Dantonio feel like a proud father? “Yeah, a little bit you know. You feel like you got 32 teams here from everywhere in the NFL, all teams are represented. And so you’ve got an opportunity to see your guys workout in from of them in a comfortable setting or in a home setting. So something you can take the edge off a little, a little anxiety off of them if you just walk over and talk to them a little bit. But it’s a big day for them and so you hope for the best, and you want the best for them. Just like all their parents.”
As Pro Day went on many of the current Spartans came out to watch. With big eyes and bigger dreams they saw all the NFL people and had their own dreams.
I remember two years ago at pro day a player who I won’t name came into the MSU indoor facility as an underclassman. He was in shorts and no shirt and Dantonio kicked him out. Told him that even though he wasn’t part of it that day he would be and this was someone’s job interview.
Dantonio spoke with pride at all his players watching their teammates, “I think just like anything there’s a lot of interest. Because they see themselves. And we always have to tell our guys hey dream big. There’s opportunity for dreams to come true here. And I think that’s important. So come out and watch your teammates run and watch your teammates workout because in a year’s time, in two years’ time, in three years’ time that’s gonna be you. And that’s everybody’s dream here, as it should be, along with graduating and doing some other things. But I think that’s all a part of the experience here. It’s part of the experience really to play in college football.”
One thing was certain on Pro Day. With three juniors leaving early one thing they didn’t lack was confidence. Dion Sims and LeVeon Bell both expressed that they felt they were the best NFL draft option at their position.
Dantonio said of their confidence, “Yea I think you have to be confident because it’s a confident league. Just like playing at this level. You better be confident. You’re gonna have your ups and your downs, and you’re gonna have your successes and failures. But you better be able to line back up and play. That’s part of this. This is real life. This is real football out here. As I tell our guys all the time it’s not a video game. You gotta do. Our guys have played in front of big crowds and they’ve played in big environments. They’ve been successful in big environments and they’re expecting great things.”
Mark Dantonio is an honorable man. He wants his guys to do well, but watching them leave can make Pro Day a bittersweet event.