Michigan State’s athletic director Mark Hollis, head football coach Mark Dantonio, and head basketball coach Tom Izzo spoke at the Detroit Economic Club about how important it is that their players have a positive impact on the younger generation.
“It’s a huge role,” said Dantonio. “We coach to have impact on young people. Hopefully our young people are able to have a positive impact on others. We had 985 young people come to a youth clinic before our spring game. They came there because of our players, our players worked with them one-on-one. So, in this environment, our young people are bigger than life.”
Izzo agreed with Dantonio.
“I’ve always believed that players are role models,” Izzo added. “I think all of us feel it is a job we have. I think it is universal across all of our athletic teams.”
Hollis then spoke about a young girl with cancer and the positive impact that the players had on her.
“I took her over to meet coach Izzo and Draymond (Green). We then went over to football practice and coach D was the first one to meet her on the field. The question was asked who’s your favorite player and quickly she said of course, ‘Kirk Cousins.’
“She then watched practice and I watched her stand in the middle of the field while the team was doing sprints. Tears are flowing down my face. And as the sprints are ending, the players come over and one-by-one they’re all talking to her. I see Arthur Ray who fought cancer himself on both knees standing in front having a conversation with this young lady.”
“Toward the end all the players are huddled around and that question came from William Gholston, ‘Who’s your favorite player?’
“The girl looked up and goes, ‘All of you.’ And it was just an ever changing moment for me to see the impact that a bunch of really big guys can have on a little girl’s life. That’s what we’re about at Michigan State.”
Dantonio and Izzo also addressed the DEC about their upcoming seasons. Dantonio, now in his sixth year as the head coach, is looking to build off last year’s 11-3 record. Dantonio has now led the Spartans to a Legends Division Championship, the 2010 Big Ten title, and the 2012 Outback Bowl Championship, but has yet to get to the Rose Bowl. After playing for the Big Ten title in three out of the last four years, the Spartans are determined to take that next step.
Meanwhile, Izzo is still trying to find a way to make another six-game run in March and secure the school’s third national title. With Draymond Green graduating, someone, or even multiple players, has to set into that leadership position before anything else can happen.