Dantonio: Spartans ‘shoulder to shoulder’ facing adversity

Michigan State, Mark Dantonio, West Michigan Sports Commission
Michigan State head football coach Mark Dantonio speaks at the West Michigan Sports Commission's annual luncheon in Grand Rapids. (May 1, 2017)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan State head football coach Mark Dantonio was the keynote speaker at the annual luncheon for the West Michigan Sports Commission on Monday.

He spoke for about half an hour in front of a packed room at the JW Marriott in downtown Grand Rapids. One of the things he talked about was a letter former Spartan David Finnell gave him that stated three things he learned while playing at Michigan State: one, tomorrow will not be different unless you change the day; two, it’s the journey that makes you strong; and three, a man who is certain of his path pays no attention to the odds against him. Dantonio said that letter struck a chord with him.

He didn’t take any question from the media, but did address the elephant in the room. Three of his players are the subjects of a sexual assault investigation stemming from a January incident. They have been suspended from the team, as has one of Dantonio’s staff members. A fourth player, 19-year-old Auston Robertson, has been arrested in a separate sexual assault that allegedly happened in April. Robertson has been kicked off the team.

“People want to point to the one thing that is going wrong and they want to lump everybody together. That’s not the case,” Dantonio said at the luncheon. “You don’t have the success that we’ve had in the past without good people. You don’t get there without good people. You don’t get there without solving problems. Ultimately, it won’t be how many games we win at Michigan State. It’ll be how we will define ourself on how we handle problems in our life. At every step of the way, those problems have been handled and we’ve been able to move forward with a sense of purpose.

“My job right now is really to keep the birds in the nest,” he added. “As I tell our players, just like this room here, I’ve got my birds in a nest. My job is to try and protect them, the ones that are sitting in that room right now, and move them forward in their lives. There’s no question that at this point in time that our situation impedes progress. It makes it difficult to go day to day without dealing with some problem or some assorted issue that has to do with the whole. But I can tell you this, just like the Spartans stood in Thermopylae, shoulder to shoulder, that’s what we will do.”