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Band of Brothers

  • Author:
    Paula M. Davenport
  • Published:
    Winter 2017

The 2016 class of Spartan football players helped drive Michigan State to a 39-14 record over the last four years, the fourth-most wins by a senior class in school history. They also won two Big Ten Championships (2013, 2015), triumphed in the 2014 Rose Bowl and the 2015 Cotton Bowl and earned a berth in 2015 College Football Playoffs.

During his 10 years as head coach , Mark Dantonio counts a total of 178 players who have earned their degrees. We caught up with five graduates. Here’s what they had to say.

Riley Bullough:

On Coach Dantonio:  He gets down to business, that’s just how he is. But the side of him people don’t see is that he’s a loving, caring guy.

Advice:  You can’t be afraid of hard work . . . I tried to come in each day excited to work, excited to try and get better, excited to go through the trials and tribulations that it takes to achieve my goals.

Favorite Memory:  I’ve met some tremendous people, some that will be my best friends for the rest of my life.

Motivation: How do you not stay pumped up? I love the game of football. I love practice. I love the workouts. I love everything about it and I always have.

Michael Geiger:

On Coach D:  He rights the ship. He keeps us going in the right direction and at the end of the day, he loves every single one of his players.

Advice:  You’re going to go through adversity. You don’t know what form it’s going to be in, but you’ve got to be up to the task . . . If you work as hard as you can to the level that we expect you to, you will be a champion.

Favorite Memory:  Playing college football is something I’ve dreamed of since I could even hold or throw a ball.

On kicking a winning field goal:  It’s just the highest form of pure joy.

Biggest challenge:  The everyday grind. A lot of people are fortunate to see the product on Saturdays, but we are working hard every single day to make sure that how we perform on Saturday is to our highest level.

Evan Jones:

Advice:  Just stay the course and it will shape you into who you’re going to be for the future.

Favorite Memory:  Cherishing how we felt with each other, winning all those games and having fun, celebrating in the locker rooms afterwards and all the funny dances and everything that people would do . . . Some of my best friends are on the team and they’re going to be at my wedding someday.

On legacy:  I hope we’re remembered as a hard-working class.

Message to the fans:  I respect Spartan Nation 100 percent and I’ll always bleed green.

Tyler O'Connor:

On Coach D:  Coach D wants us all to grow into self-sufficient men as we leave here . . .  Every time he gets in front of us to talk, there’s some life message you feel like you can take out.

Advice:  We win with chemistry.

Favorite Memory:  Playing with the largest crowd in [Ohio State’s stadium] the Horseshoe, and getting us on our way to the Big 10 Championship game.

On Legacy:  It’s tough to not look at your final record as a legacy but in the end, I think it’s important that people understand that we worked our butts off.

Message to the fans:  It’s awesome to have that everlasting support from Michigan State fans from all around the world.

R.J. Shelton:

On Coach D:  Coach D preaches that there’s life beyond football and he wants to mold you as a man before he molds you as a football player.

Advice:  Believe in yourself. Once you have the mindset that you can do it, that’s when the whole team takes off.

Favorite Memory:  Being with the offensive unit every week and knowing that 11 guys on the field have your back and they want to win—just coming together every Saturday and working towards the common goal of getting the “W” . . . The best part is taking the walk from the Kellogg at home games, knowing that Spartan Nation loves Saturdays.

On Legacy:  It’s always tough when you see guys leave, and then you’re a senior and BAM, in the blink of an eye, it’s your last game.