What the Spartan Nation learned in the loss of ROJO!

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Sitting in the Grace Temple Church Sunday in snow covered Muskegon Heights on Sunday was certainly an interesting experience. The possibility that Ronald Johnson would commit to Michigan State is what drew me to the small church rather than the excitement and weather of Miami for the Super Bowl. To me, the choice was obvious; it was clear that had ROJO selected Michigan State it would have been a far bigger story to Spartan Nation.Â

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Today, we all know that he didn’t commit to MSU. Yet, I still don’t regret going. However, despite the disappointment, I wanted to know why. So I sought a family member and I sought frank answers. He had been a great source throughout the entire process, which, by the way, was promoting Ohio State. Beyond this source, I also spoke with the Honorable Judge Gregory C. Pittman, a family friend of the Johnson’s.

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The family source explained it to me bluntly: “It came down to MSU and USC in the end. When I asked for more detail he explained the complex situation with Corey Johnson, Ron’s younger brother and current MSU commit. He said “Coach Dantonio made it clear that the recruitment of COJO was going to be a separate thing. I think that had Dantonio used COJO he could have gotten Ronald, but that is not how he works.” He gave Coach Dantonio nothing but praise in the whole process. “He was an honest man and he was not going to bring him there only to get his brother. MSU didn’t get Ronald, but they got my respect.” He explained to me that Dantonio was being extremely honest with COJO. COJO might be somewhat bitter over the fact that Dantonio has chosen to reevaluate him and not necessarily honor the offer from the previous staff, but Dantonio is an honest man and is doing things the right way.Â

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I applaud Dantonio for representing MSU the right way. He wasn’t going to use ROJO’s little brother, and he didn’t. Sadly, how many of us would have? Sadly in college athletics how many coaches would use kids? I am proud to say not Izzo or Dantonio!

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A man whom has been seen as an adviser to ROJO, but more accurately a father figure is the Honorable Jude Gregory C. Pittman. Pittman serves as a probate and family court judge in Muskegon County. I talked with him about the recruitment of ROJO and what MSU did in the process. Again, all I heard was how impressed he was with Coach Dantonio. “Dantonio represented MSU magnificently. When Ronald called them and made it clear that he wasn’t going to pick MSU, their response was professional, sincere and genuine.” He further explained that at one point MSU was completely out of the process, but Coach Dantonio brought them back in. Specifically, he told me that “In two separate conversations Coach Dantonio had, one with Ron at school and with Miranda (Ron’s Mother) at home, they compared notes and they both were so impressed. He (Dantonio) is going to get some players! He is so genuine sincere and disciplined.” Judge Pittman offered coach Dantonio a lot of praise, especially when you look at the impressive list of coaches that were also vying for his services.

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Since Coach Dantonio was hired, we have seen him work incredibly hard to be together quite an impressive class. When you factor in the short time his staff had to evaluate players and build relationships with them it makes this class even more impressive. Coach Dantonio does it right. He doesn’t use kids; he tells them the truth. One current member of the Spartan team summed up Coach Dantonio best when he approached me recently and stated, “This guy (Dantonio) is doing things the right way. No mind games, just straight forward tell it like it is. I might not always like that but I sure respect it.”

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Sunday was not meant to be the day for Spartan Nation. ROJO chose USC. I was disappointed The Spartan Nation didn’t get a ROJO on Sunday. A young man that could have been to Dantonio what Cleaves was to Izzo. I was reminded of what I had already known for many years about Dantonio. This time my faith in Dantonio was tested when the fish could have been the best player in the nation at MSU’s weakest position: Dantonio’s integrity and commitment to doing it right works. He played the game fair, now he can look at all 100 kids in the fall and demand of them what he gave: his best. He took no short cuts, made no promises that inside he knew he couldn’t or shouldn’t keep.

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ROJO said it best when he said, “you may not like my decision, but I have been honest and truthful through the whole process. I ask you to at least respect my choice.” That fine young man deserved that. I also respect how Mark Dantonio took care of his business.

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I have more coming on this story at a later date bit for now I leave you with this thought. I left Grace Temple disappointed for the Spartan Nation, but sure proud of what we got. We lost a ROJO but thank God we got a Dantonio.Â

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