Tom Izzo’s Sunday Afternoon Shows He is the Face of MSU and the State of Michigan

MiketheGovernorHenne

Washington, DC

After six Final Fours, a National Championship, six Big Ten regular championships, numerous NBA players, and a future spot in the hall of fame, Tom Izzo continues to be just a regular guy from the state of Michigan. Tom Izzo is basketball in the state of Michigan; he is the face of Michigan State University.

So it was a beautiful June Sunday afternoon in Michigan and Tom Izzo was out doing what he does best. Tom dropped by Springport High School to speak to the Springport Spartan seniors as they collected their diplomas. Tom’s message wasn’t earth shattering. Much like the simple philosophies that he imparts on his players and the people he works along side, Tom told the Springport seniors to write down their goals, review their goals from time to time, and to never forget where they came from.

Iron Mountain’s proud son was doing his job; he was being a good citizen. Most college coaches would look at Springport High School and its seventy-two seniors as a waste of time. Springport will probably never produce a Michigan State basketball player, but basketball and advancing a personal agenda were never a part of Tom’s plan.

Some coaches preach it; Tom Izzo lives it. He shows up for Michiganders because he is a Michigander. He has won over the greater Michigan community by being the man he claims to be. He apologized to the Springport community for not being able to stay longer for the post-ceremonial celebration. Tom had a couple other commitments on Sunday to other graduates and extended family members.

Often celebrities don’t give back. They often reach a pedestal and forget about those who made them who they are. Tom has never forgotten who he is; this is why we love him. This is why we bleed when his team loses. This is why we smile when he steps to the microphone after a big win. The state of Michigan and Tom Izzo just go together. When there has been so much heartache over Michigan’s economy and political struggles, Tom has been a steady hand in a time of uncertainty. He has replaced Bo Schembechler as Michigan’s sports icon and the father figure that so many Michiganders identify with.

When Michigan State finds themselves overmatched, we as Spartan fans breathe a sigh of relief because we know he is on the sideline. Don’t kid yourselves; Tom is an X factor whenever he is coaching. He inspires kids to give more than they often have. He makes men out of sometimes-troubled kids. He brings stability to the political MSU machine and he never says anything that doesn’t make us all proud to be Spartan alumni and MSU fans.

My brother is the Agriscience teacher at Springport. He called me just beaming after Tom took a moment to speak with him. We both relived the moment Sunday over the telephone and the conversation quickly turned toward Izzo’s future.

The truth is that Tom doesn’t owe us anything. If he leaves for the NBA tomorrow, he has given us more than we probably deserve. Much like my brother and I, the Spartan Nation would be absolutely disappointed if he left. For Pat (my brother) and I it is more about the type of people Tom epitomizes. He is small town Michigan; he knows what hard work is all about. He speaks his mind even when it isn’t the popular thing to do and most importantly, he remembers those that impacted his life and helped him ascend the ranks of the college basketball food chain.

Tom had nothing to gain Sunday speaking to the seventy-two seniors in Springport. He was there to give back and bring happiness and inspiration to a small town.

Whenever Tom leaves, I fear the identity that was once MSU will leave with him. There will surely be someone to carry the basketball program forward, but there will never be another man at Michigan State that embodies the spirit of the small town Michigander. It is the very citizen Michigan State was charged to look after when it accepted its charter in 1855. Thank goodness Tom is still one of us. He proved it once again Sunday in Springport.

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