New Michigan State Spartan Football Coach Mel Tucker
Hondo S. Carpenter
Delta Township, MI
Spartan Nation broke the story on Tuesday evening that Mel Tucker would be the next coach of the Michigan State Spartan Football program. You can read the transcript below or watch the video above from his speech after he was introduced.
PRESIDENT STANLEY: Who better to introduce our new coach than his wife, JoEllyn Tucker. As Tom said, JoEllyn has Big Ten ties of her own. She earned her undergraduate degree at University of Illinois and her law degree from Rutgers. Please welcome me in welcoming JoEllyn, JoJo, to the stage.
JoELLYN TUCKER: Awesome. Thank you for having us. Thank you for being so welcoming and you know, we actually got engaged right here in East Lansing. It was a while ago. Almost 23 years ago now.
We are super excited to come back where it all began and all of our Midwest and Big Ten ties, we are so excited and we can't wait to get here, the boys and I, and just become a part of the community. Everyone's been so welcoming already and we are going to hit the ground running.
It is my honor and pleasure to introduce the fearless leader of our family and the guy that we just love to death and would follow him anywhere, next head coach of Michigan State Football, Mel Tucker.
HEAD COACH MEL TUCKER: Fearless leader, huh? I like that touch. Thank you. She's never called me that before. Truth comes out.
Wow, thank you. First, I'd like to thank Athletic Director Beekman, President Stanley, Board of Trustees and all of the Spartan supporters who made today possible for me. I have prepared remarks so I don't keep you hear all day. If I don't write them down, we can go for a while.
This is a special time for me. This is an incredible moment and I just want to thank everyone for being here today. I'll try to be brief. I just want to touch on a couple of things real quick. Three things, actually. Gratitude, responsibility and loving Spartan Football.
The first is gratitude and in that I have to thank God. It's hard to describe how pleased and honored I feel to be back home at Michigan State where I began my coaching career in 1997 for the great Nick Saban.
The outpouring of support that the Spartan Nation has shown me and my family, over the past 12 hours, has been overwhelming. I want to thank, many, many people. I would love to do that, but I promised I'm not going to wear you out.
Thank you to the team involved in the coaching search. Appreciate you. Thank you so much. As each of you know, and I know that you respect, it was very hard for me to leave Colorado. But thank you for never giving up on me and for your confidence in me to lead one of the finest football programs in America.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the people who were truly responsible for me being here today, standing in front of you today: My family, my mom, Brenda, who has taught me to be a lifelong learner; and my dad, Mel, senior, who was a true football dad. Thank you for always putting me and my brothers first and for showing me what real love and sacrifice is all about.
To my wife, JoJo, and my sons Joseph, who is Poo, and Christian, who is Baby -- I'm sorry, man, I had to do it -- I'm sorry (Laughter) -- you are my True North, and you make it all worth it.
The second is responsibility. You know we hear a lot about what coaches might have a secret sauce to win. You know, who they worked for; what coaching tree they came from. Well, to me, there's no secret sauce. There's just people who taught me the responsibilities that we have as coaches.
I've had the privilege of being mentored by some of the very best coaches in the profession. Some of the very best. I can't mention all of them because we'll be here all day. But for my playing career, it was Barry Alvarez, the God father, to working with Nick Saban, not once, but three times, and then Coach Tressel, Coach Jim Tressel and Romeo Crennel. These men shaped me. They shaped my coaching path. They not only taught me the X's and the O's, but they taught me the intangibles of creating a winning mindset in a winning culture.
The responsibility and importance of hard work, humility, accountability and having a serving mindset and to love the game, to love the game.
That brings me to No. 3. You have to love it. You have to love it. Anyone who knows me knows that I love the game of football. Football has given me everything I have.
And I love people who love the game. I love people who love the game. My players, coaches, fans, media; if you love it, I'll probably like you. We play it, we coach it, we watch it, we cover it, because we absolutely love it.
So today, I'm excited about Michigan State Football because I love football here, right here. We have a strong and rich history under coaches like Biggie Munn, Duffy Daugherty, winning national championships. Coach Saban taking us to the Citrus Bowl and more recently appearances in the College Football Playoffs, the Rose Bowl and three Big Ten Championships. That's pretty strong.
I love the positives of the Michigan State Football legacy. I cannot be more fired up about being part of this culture; this is a winning culture and creating a winning future here in football. I'm excited.
I promise you that we will do everything to prepare, practice and play relentless and accountable football with toughness and integrity. We will do that.
We have much to live up to and much to prove and I believe the time is right now. The time is now. Gratitude, responsibility and loving Spartan Football.
With that, I just want to say thank you again, and to all of you here, thank you. To all of our fans, and to the media who made it here on short notice, thank you for your time and being here to support us. Thank you so much. Without you, you know, we couldn't get it done. Can't do it without you.
So with that, like I said, I'll be short, I'll open it up to a friendly Q&A.
Q. Thinking back to 1997 and 1998, could you ever have envisioned yourself back here after this career you've had leading this program?
HEAD COACH MEL TUCKER: You know, I hoped. I hoped. My dream was to come back here and be the head coach. That was my dream. When you work for a guy like Nick Saban and you see him do it, you know, you can't help but to aspire to be able to be in that position one day and do that.
So this is truly -- this is certainly a dream come true for me. To be back here, the time has gone very fast. It seems like just yesterday. That I was here, 400 bucks a month as a GA sleeping under my desk. I tried to always make sure that when Nick Saban walked past the GA office, I was there, you know, coming and going. You could hear him, he was shaking that change in his pocket coming down the hall. You knew that Coach Saban was coming down the deal, and I was right there at attention.
So yes, it's special. You know, and I don't take it lightly. I cherish this opportunity. Thank you for that question.
Q. This fall what should fans expect to see? What is Coach Tucker's style?
HEAD COACH MEL TUCKER: First, we'll be best conditioned, and that's the foundation of our program. Our program is built in the courtroom. We'll play with great technique and fundamentals. We'll play smart. We don't beat ourselves. That's the goal. We'll play fast. Both sides of the ball and special teams. Players play fast when they know what they are doing. Last but not least, we'll play physical football. That's really the name of the game and that's what Michigan State Football has always been about. Hard-nosed physical football.
Q. Can you take us through the timeline from when Michigan State first reached out to you to finally agreeing, "I'm going to do this" and take us through some of the details along the way?
HEAD COACH MEL TUCKER: I'll do my best. It's been a little bit of a blur. But late last week, Michigan State showed interest, and I had interest, as well. Strong interest, very strong interest.
Throughout the process, you know, I decided that it was time for me to take a step back from the process. Obviously there were other great candidates and the search continued. It circled back to me; I want to say it was probably on maybe Monday morning with my representation.
You know, ultimately, sometime late last night, it was apparent to me that I needed to be here (tapping on podium). That's kind of how it went down, yeah.
Q. Obviously as you said, it been a blur the last few days are the last week. Can you describe what you were wrestling with when you first seemed to commit back to Colorado, and then came back to Michigan State? What changed there and what were you wrestling with during that time?
HEAD COACH MEL TUCKER: You know, everything has a process. I'm very deliberate about, you know, how I go about my business and how I evaluate things, professionally and personally.
Leaving Colorado was probably -- was actually the toughest thing that I have ever done in my -- in my career, in my life, actually. And so -- but this is -- this is the -- this is the right time for me to be here. That's really what it comes down to. You know, these -- the commitment is here. The resources are here; the want-to; the leadership is here. Everything is here. Everything we need is here right now to get done what we need to get done.
And so although we all have to make tough decisions at times, this was certainly one of them. It was the right decision, and there's no doubt in my mind about that.
Q. Anybody that watched you play knew you loved the game physically, but you love it as a student of it. This is the school that broke the color barrier. What does it mean to come back here and lead that program that 60 years ago changed college football?
HEAD COACH MEL TUCKER: It's an honor and it's a privilege, quite frankly. I feel extremely blessed to have this opportunity, and we're going to make the most of it. We're going to give it everything that we have every day. We owe it -- I owe it to myself. I owe it to my family, my players, all of us in the room here and all of the great people that have come here before us. You know, great players in the past and great coaches; this is a program that has a rich and storied history and tradition of excellence, diversity, and there's very few places like this in America.
Q. Antjuan mentioned the team meeting earlier and how intense that was. I was wondering what your message was to the guys that are here already, and how quickly would you like to get the staffing figured out so you could start moving forward?
HEAD COACH MEL TUCKER: Yeah, the message, kind of in a nutshell, is that we are all in this thing together. I have your back, you know, and we're going to support you, myself and my staff. It's not going to be easy. We're going to work really hard. We're going to have a culture of accountability, a sense of urgency, attention to detail, unselfishness. You know, relentless attitude, competition, and it's going to be worth it. It's going to be worth it.
But we're going to do it and we're going to do it together. You know, every single person, every single player, is important in our program. Everyone's got a clean slate at this point with me and we're going to move forward from this point, you know, as a football team.
And these guys, we need to graduate -- we need to graduate our players, and we spent a significant amount of time talking about that. You know, first and foremost, you're here to get an education. You're here to get a degree, and we want to help you launch your career after football.
Obviously my job is to help you get you are why first job, whether it's the National Football League, or more often than that, it's in the real world, and this is a great place to launch that career. Those are some of the things that we touched upon.
Thank you for that question.
Q. What are your impressions of the way Michigan State has grown since you were here on the inside in 1998? I was interested in your observations since you've comeback and looked around a little bit.
HEAD COACH MEL TUCKER: I haven't got the entire tour. It certainly looks different than it looked in 1997, 1998.
It's very impressive to me. When I walked in -- when we walked in today, I felt something different. I felt something special. I felt there was an energy; there was a vibe. It was a positive environment that's conducive to reaching your full potential. I think environment and expectations are two main factors in becoming successful.
The environment here is tremendous with the support. Everyone is supporting one another, and the expectations like we talked about earlier, have always been high, and they continue to be that.
This is truly one of the great coaching opportunities in football.
Q. Obviously the timing was unique on both sides of this. Curious, first, what are sort of your next steps in the next week or two, and are there any challenges of taking a job like this at this time?
HEAD COACH MEL TUCKER: Well, you know, we have to put together a staff. I told the players, I can't -- I can't guarantee that I'm going to bring in every guru or some football genius, you know, X & O guy.
We want to bring in, first and foremost, coaches with tremendous character that are great role models for our players, family guys that care about young men; that are going to treat our young men as their own children, their own family. That's a big part of what we'll be doing in the next few days and I can assure you, there's no shortage of great coaches out there who want to be here with me and these young men.
Then we're getting ready for spring ball. So there's a strength and conditioning aspect of it, and a program of running and lifting and preparing ourselves so we can compete in spring ball.
Then, I've got to get to know my peers. I've got to get to know players, coaches, everyone in our university community here. I'm really looking forward to that. I embrace that opportunity.
The challenges that we have, like I say, at this point of the year are -- you know, we're built for that, and we'll get it done. It won't take long.
Q. You've only been here for a few hours and you said the process has been a blur. Is it pretty much starting over from scratch with the team as far as your knowledge of the roster and players and the identity of what Michigan State Football has been recently?
HEAD COACH MEL TUCKER: I have some work to do in terms of learning our roster and that's -- I mean, that's part of what you do in the out-of-season scheme evaluation, player evaluation. Just find out what we need to do to get better.
Listen, we want to hit the ground running. Time is of the essence. We are not going to waste any time. We are going to be efficient. We are going to be effective in everything that we do. We are going to recruit. We are going to identify the players that we feel like can help us and then we are going to target them. We are going to recruit them with the intent of signing those guys.
And so everything that has to be done in a football program, quite frankly, has already started for me. And so we sleep fast. We'll be sleeping fast and getting after it. We're going to make the most of every opportunity we have.
Q. Kind of wanted to know, from you, you worked directly under Mark Dantonio previously, both here when you were at GA and when you were at Ohio State. How much Mark Dantonio is there in you and your coaching philosophy, how many things are different, and do you have any plans or decisions to make with his assistants that are still on staff?
HEAD COACH MEL TUCKER: Yeah, I was here 1997-98 as a graduate assistant coach to Coach Dantonio with a secondary coach, and I left LSU with Nick Saban to work alongside Coach Dantonio at Ohio State for Jim Tressel, and I worked with him for three years there. Obviously he is one of those great mentors that I've learned a lot from and he's helped shape some of my football philosophies and things like that.
So I've always considered him a friend and just a tremendous football coach and an outstanding person. So I'm looking forward to reconnecting with him.
PRESIDENT STANLEY: Like to thank everybody for coming. Any final words?
HEAD COACH MEL TUCKER: Go Green!
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