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Good Guys Do Finish First: Thank You Coach Dantonio!


Good Guys Can an Do Finish First!  Thank you Coach D!  Photo courtesy of Mark Boomgaard.

Good Guys Can an Do Finish First! Thank you Coach D! Photo courtesy of Mark Boomgaard.

There were a number of differing opinions heading into Saturday’s game against Penn State. It was no secret that quarterback Kirk Cousins was held together with binder twine and duct tape after the Purdue game. What Kirk needed his Spartans to do was take care of the ball, run it effectively, make big stops on defense and give his offense favorable field position. The Spartans did just that. Now they sit contently in East Lansing awaiting their bowl game fate with a Big Ten co-championship nestled in the trophy case next to the Landgrant Trophy they took from Penn State.


You can look at MSU’s season anyway you’d like. You can debate the BCS inside and out. You can talk about MSU’s early season hammering of Wisconsin. Heck, you can argue that the Spartans are the best overall team in the Big Ten and yet a Rose Bowl will not be in the cards this season. Does it hurt? You betcha!! Should Spartan fans feel slighted? Maybe a little.


The reality is that the team has climbed up the Big Ten ladder, but the program’s perception outside of the Big Ten needs some work yet. The Spartans don’t need to win eleven games every year, but they need to win eight or nine to get the love they need to secure a BCS bid in the future. 


The Rose Bowl is special. I would love to be a part of it and will be there when MSU is extended an invitation to play in the ‘grand daddy of them all.’ Even if we ended up in the Rose Bowl, we wouldn’t be playing for the National Championship. So at the end of the day it isn’t worth a whole lot of agony. Dantonio and his staff clinched a Big Ten Championship (the first in 20 years) in the fourth year of their rebuilding process. Celebrate that; celebrate eleven wins and remember all of the big plays that got us there.


11-1 is a remarkable accomplishment. It has never been done at MSU. There is a lot to be thankful for this season. It kind of choked me up standing in Mark Dantonio’s post game press conference and seeing him with his Big Ten Champs hat fixed proudly to the top of his head.  He accomplished what few thought was possible at MSU. He turned a losing culture into an eleven game winner. He turned a sub-five hundred team from a year ago into a Big Ten Champion. He did this while suffering a heart attack early in the season and did it with the help of one of the better coaching staffs in America.

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Mark’s rebuilding process involved the Spartan family. Even though I am a sports writer, I have felt like I am part of what has gone on through this Spartan resurrection. It is not because I did anything amazing to help our cause. I am a fan first that supports our team and gets an opportunity to tell a good story every once in a while. It is because of the way Mark carries himself, lives the things he preaches and the way he takes care of the Spartan family.


When I called home to tell my family that Coach had a heart attack after the ND game, it really took the wind out of the victory. It was personal and we were deeply concerned.  The story I am about to share with everyone is something I’ve kept close to the vest for two years. I haven’t shared it with anyone largely because I knew there would be appropriate time. Little did I know it would be coupled to a Big Ten Championship.

A couple years ago, my father was diagnosed with cancer. It was a scary time around the Henne household.  I wrote Mark a letter at the time talking about how much it meant to have something positive to discuss on the heals of my father’s diagnosis. It was fun to call home and talk Spartan Football with my dad even though we knew a bumpy ride and trying times were headed our way with his treatment. Upon reading my letter, Mark called me to get my father’s telephone number. He called and talked to my dad. He offered words of encouragement and shared some of his family’s challenges. Apparently, someone close to Coach was diagnosed with he same kind of lymphoma and it struck a chord with him. To say the least, my father was blown away. 


A week later, my father started his chemotherapy. For six weeks he endured the radiation as well. My father and I never really talk much about that time anymore. He made a full recovery. We hold our breath every time he goes in for an MRI and to get his blood work. I think that MSU football and their nine wins in 2008 helped our family through a tough time. I know that the time Mark took to call my dad will never be forgotten.


There were thousands of Spartans in Beaver Stadium Saturday. One of them was my father. In a round about sort of way, I think my father braved the cold Saturday because of a phone call he got one winter evening.


Coach Dantonio talks about how a little time and a little effort can have a huge impact on a person’s life. I have witnessed it first hand. No one deserved that championship trophy more than Mark Dantonio. It is really easy to root for the good guys and hard to root against them. Mark Dantonio is our ‘good-guy.’ Congratulations Coach!! Thank-you for such an incredible season.