With the Rose Bowl celebration as a backdrop, Mark Dantonio talks to high school coaches Friday. (Dale G. Young / Detroit News)
Lansing — It was nearly two weeks after the Rose Bowl before Mark Dantonio got a chance to see what his team had accomplished.
Last Saturday, Dantonio and his wife sat down at home and checked out the replay.
For the first time they watched the Spartans fall behind early, only to rally in the second half.
For the first time they watched Kyler Elsworth soar through the air to stuff Stanford on a fourth-and-1 in the final minutes.
For the first time, they got to see the celebration and collective excitement among the throng of Michigan State fans in Pasadena.
Dantonio’s wife, Becky, reminded him of the conversation he had with Nick Saban in 1995 when Dantonio was hired as the Spartans defensive backs coach.
“I was talking to Nick Saban over the telephone and he was interviewing me and he said, ‘Why do you want to come to Michigan State?’ ” Dantonio recalled. “She said, ‘Do you remember what you said?’ I said, ‘No.’ She said ‘Because I want go to the Rose Bowl.’
“There it is. Obviously, since we’ve gotten back here and I was the head coach, that’s been something that we’ve fixated on so we got that, got that done, been there. Now it’s time to see if we can stay there and that will be the challenge. Handle success.”
It has been a whirlwind for Dantonio and the program since the 24-20 victory over Stanford on Jan. 1, but time hardly has taken any of the luster off for Dantonio and his program.
They handled success all season, winning 10 straight games to close the season.
Now it will be up to them to continue that progress.
While Dantonio has allowed his players to bask in the limelight — “I’m just giving them a little space and letting them be young people” — he and his staff are busy putting the final touches on the 2014 recruiting class.
“We’ve got our work cut out,” he said. “A lot of things can happen before that point in time. So my focus is on the now, always has been. The future as well, but the now is finishing recruiting and, you know, the recruiting calendar is so different this year than it has been, so we basically have two weeks and a couple days to recruit.”
As recruiting enters its final push before the February 5 signing day, Dantonio said there is a different feel now that Michigan State is a Rose Bowl champion.
But even before the victory, Dantonio was using the Rose Bowl appearance as a reason for prospects to commit to Michigan State. Hours before the game, he stood on the field talking to several players on the phone.
“We’re at the Rose Bowl,” he told them. “Come on, let’s go.”
Turning the momentum from a 13-1 season and a Rose Bowl championship into prolonged success will be the goal.
But things change next season as the college football playoff begins. Dantonio and his players didn’t shy away from national championship talk in the days after the Rose Bowl and it doesn’t sound like that has changed.
“I think you build to those types of things,” Dantonio said. “There’s some things you can control, other things you can’t control. ... We have to concentrate on the now and the things you know are gonna happen.”