INDIANAPOLIS — All you needed to know about Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio was revealed on FOX’s Big Ten championship game post-game show.
Former Ohio State running back Eddie George asked Dantonio how he was going to celebrate the Spartans’ 34-24 win over the formerly No. 2 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes.
“First thing I’m going to do, I’m going to go in that locker room and dance with my players,” Dantonio said. “‘Type of Way,’ you ever heard of that? You better check it out. Rich Homie Quan.”
That’s right, the 57-year-old coach mentioned an Atlanta rapper whose song has become a post-victory locker room staple for players and coaches to dance to together.
Before the Big Ten championship game, there was a lot of talk nationally about Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and his 24-game winning streak.
There was national mention of the Spartans’ defense and Dantonio appeared in interviews, but rarely was his coaching a topic of much discussion.
“He’s just like our football team, an underdog,” sophomore defensive end Shilique Calhoun said. “People don’t really see him or notice him, but he does what he needs to do to help us get a win.
“He keeps us focused, he keeps us men of faith. I think that’s a great thing for a head coach, when he walks in faith and he tries to guide us in faith, we’re strong.”
There was a lot of talk all week about senior safety Isaiah Lewis, who had a costly five-yard penalty for running into the punter while trying to block a punt with less than two minutes left in the game with Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game two years ago.
Lewis, an Indianapolis native, was devastated, especially seeing how distraught the seniors were when they lost.
But Dantonio made it clear that Lewis was not to blame.
“I sent him on the punt block,” Dantonio said. “I told him to go get it. That responsibility lies with me.”
Although Lewis might not have felt that way, he felt Dantonio’s unwavering support.
That support helped Lewis grow into the player he was Saturday night, a first-team All-Big Ten coaches’ selection who led the Spartans with 13 tackles, five more than any of his teammates.
Dantonio stays the course with his players and he stayed the course with his team throughout the game, even when the Buckeyes went on a 24-0 run to take a 24-17 lead.
“He basically told us keep pushing, stay confident, we were going to win this game,” junior free safety Kurtis Drummond said. “We never lost faith in ourselves.
“He always says it don’t matter what people outside the locker room think, it’s about people inside the locker room. We never lost faith in each other. It just goes a long way, having confidence.”
Dantonio may appear stoic on the sidelines but he’s shown throughout the years that he’s got a few tricks up his sleeve and he’s not afraid to use them.
He was up to it again right after the Spartans had taken back a 27-24 lead.
Dantonio had his team attempt an onside kick, which they nearly recovered.
“We’re going to play to win,” Dantonio said. “I felt like if we got the ball there, we were up by three, and if we got the ball, we’d take it down the field and create more momentum.”
Not only did it show that Dantonio was playing to win, it also showed the faith he had in his defense in being able to stop the Buckeyes despite their good field position.
The defense forced Ohio State to punt.
Offensive lineman Travis Jackson said Dantonio showed that same faith in the offense earlier in the season when they were struggling.
Jackson said he knew he wanted to be a Spartan when Dantonio recruited him.
“The reason I came to Michigan State was coach Dantonio was such a different coach than anybody I met,” Jackson said. “I think he recruits a person rather than a player, which makes him really special.
“Even just the four years I’ve been here, just seeing him grow as a head coach has been awesome. I’ve got to give credit to him, he really stuck with us, especially the offense, kind of let us take on our own persona. I’m so happy for coach Dantonio.”
Senior cornerback Darqueze Dennard said Dantonio creates a genuine family atmosphere.
“He’s a great guy,” Dennard said. “Not only a coach, he’s a father figure to all of us. He leads us. Great coach. He cares about his players. I love him.”
Senior offensive lineman Fou Fonoti said he loves it when Dantonio lets loose after a win.
“You see him on the sidelines, straight face,” Fonoti said. “You see him in here and he’s busting out little moves. We’ll have Travis Jackson work with him on some choreo(graphy) but it’s a huge testament to Coach D, being so humble.
“I’m so excited for him to be able to take this program back to where it definitely belongs.”
Jackson, acknowledged as a team leader in the post-game celebration dance, said Dantonio doesn’t need to change a thing — not even his dancing.
“No way, did you see him?” Jackson said. “He’s great. No chance.”