Dantonio: "A Mentor and a Friend"

"I told him one time … I really believe the he found a way to harness the human spirit. His players always played hard, they believed in themselves and played with confidence," Mark Dantonio said as his Spartans prepare to play newly minted No. 1 OSU. "He's always had his players ready to play in big games."

EAST LANSING – Mark Dantonio and Jim Tressel go way back.

The Michigan State head coach first worked under Tressel, at Youngstown State in 1986. While Dantonio couldn't stick around for the Penguin's and Tressel's three Division 1-AA national championships, he helped lay the foundation and learned a lot in the process. He even gained a friend.

"I admire him as a person, as a mentor and as a friend," Dantonio says of Tressel, adding that their friendship continues to this day: "We're very, very close."

After stops in Kansas and Michigan State as an assistant, Dantionio reconnected with Tressel at Ohio State as the Buckeye's defensive coordinator. The pair repeated their history of success with a national championship at OSU in 2002.

The philosophy Dantonio now uses to run the Spartan football program has roots in their shared history.

"We've patterned it a lot after things we'd done at Youngstown State then coming to Ohio State," Dantonio says.

He learned a lot from Tressel and actively works at implementing some of the strategies he gleaned through the years.

"He has tremendous patience and perseverance. He's able to deal with issues and see things clearly and move through them. Not just good times, but in the bad times. Especially the bad times, that's when he's at his best," Dantonio says. "If I could take anything from him, it would be that."

After being asked, specifically, what he applies from his time with Tressel, Dantonio said, "Empowering our players, I really believe in that, bringing back tradition … doing things of that nature."

Win or lose this Saturday, Dantonio will respect the team he plays because he knows the kind of man that leads them.

"(Jim Tressel) is just a good man," Dantonio says. "He's a great football coach, but, that being said, he's a better person."

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