Mark Dantonio’s Secret Weapon: Jon “THE MISSILE” Misch!

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Now don’t be fooled by Mark Dantonio’s new starting linebacker. If you were to see him on your doorstep you may think that he is a Boy Scout selling popcorn rather than a starting Big Ten linebacker. He is small at 6’1” and just over 200 pounds and his smile is as big as the Mackinac Bridge. Remember the old adage about the dog? It isn’t the size of the dog in the fight; it is the size of the fight in the dog. Jon “THE MISSILE” Misch has a lot of fight. The projectile you'll see flying across the sacred ground of the high cathedral of the Spartan Nation (aka Spartan Stadium) this fall is simply a heat seeking missile being shot out of Pat Narduzzi’s defense that goes by the name of Misch: Jon “THE MISSILE” Misch.

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“…I like to attack the run. People would think that’s weird because I’m such a small person, that I like to run into linemen, which I actually like to do, I think it’s fun. That’s the only thing that I can come up with.  I’m a very aggressive player, and I just like to get after it on the run like that.” That is how THE MISSILE described his style to me and let me tell you that the coaches are more than surprised with his progress.

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THE MISSILE is not a kid who would turn heads on a beach because of his enormous biceps or huge body builder physique like many of his teammates. Thankfully for the Spartan Nation, when the pads are on, he is impossible to ignore. He is all over the field and when matched up against guys that are bigger, he somehow just makes plays.Â

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Here is a hint: don’t tell John that he is too small. He will refute your statement as quickly as it was spoken. “A lot of people think that my size would make playing linebacker the hardest thing for me but it’s not. I think that’s my smallest problem because my biggest problem is having to slow down. I actually get downhill a little bit too fast and I need to learn how to pace myself. That’s where I get a little bit too aggressive sometimes. I don’t even care about my size. I love being a small person. I think that I can play with these guys no matter what size I am and I think that being smaller gives me an opportunity to show that I am a player and that I can make plays instead of using my size to help me out.”

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THE MISSILE has gained respect with his play on the field and has emerged as a leader and one of the most respected Spartans on the squad. Last week in practice, DC Pat Narduzzi jumped in to play a defensive position with no pads and got an interception on Brian Hoyer. Misch couldn’t let that pass. “He’s a very intense person [Narduzzi]. He really likes to get into practices. Actually, today we were a man short on our defense. He came in and played and he even got an interception and I was like... all right! So he likes to get in there, and I like how he’s also upbeat. I’m walking out today and I saw Narduzzi and I walked past him and heard Narduzzi say, Hoyer, get over here! Stop throwing the ball to us! I want our defense to win but come on! He was just messing around with him.”

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Don’t be surprised when the name Misch echoes out of Spartan Stadium this coming season. Don’t be like so many that are fooled by visual appearances. He may not look overly intimidating, but he is a heck of a linebacker that is appreciating every second of his opportunity. He summed it up best when he told me earlier this year, “I would do whatever they tell me if it will help us win.” That attitude is what has gotten THE MISSILE running with the ones on the depth chart. I predict his positive attitude is what will keep him there.

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Recently, THE MISSLE learned of Coach Mike Tressel's reaction when looking at the linebacking corp he inherited earlier this winter. Coach Tressel said, “Are you kidding me?"... when he was presented with Misch's less than Big Ten physique. Misch took it in stride and even said when asked about Coach Mannie’s training regiment for him that Mannie constantly tells him, “If I see you and I don’t see food in your hands then I’m going to beat you.”

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It is a new day for Spartan football. Optimism runs high and to see young kids like THE MISSILE leading the charge back to where we belong is a great thing. So many people have to watch athletes around their kids because character issues fill the media daily with less than stellar reports. Jon "THE MISSILE" Misch is the kind of guy you want around your children; he is truly a fine example of what the student athlete should be about.

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Waterford Michigan’s favorite son sure has to have made a lot of people proud, and he hasn’t even started a game yet. I am sure that the good people around Waterford aren’t surprised. They have known Jon and his heart a lot longer than the rest of us. I am just glad that we all have an opportunity to know him both on and off the field. You walk away from a scrimmage or practice saying, what a good football player. I am sure his family is prouder that you'll walk away from a conversation with Jon knowing he is an exceptional young man. Isn't it great when you can say both about the same person?

Mark Dantonio summed up Jon Misch the best when he told me earlier this year, "That kid is all heart. Great kid and he loves football." Just like his coach!