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East Lansing — Michigan State sophomore cornerback Josh Butler started against Penn State on Saturday, but he was doing so with a heavy heart.

Not long before the Spartans were set to make their walk to Spartan Stadium Saturday morning from the Kellogg Center, Butler learned that his father, Steven, died suddenly.

When the team arrived at the stadium, Butler joined Dantonio as the team locked arms and walked the length of the field, something it does before every game. Once they reached the opposite end zone, they gathered around Dantonio and Butler for a few moments. When the players dispersed, and started heading to the locker room, most offered words and pats on the back for Butler, who made his fourth start this season.

“I think it’s a pretty private matter,” coach Mark Dantonio said in his Sunday teleconference. “But I will just say that we learned that Josh’s father, Steven, had passed suddenly yesterday morning about 35 minutes or 40 minutes — right around our team meeting. So right before we were going to take our team walk. So, it was a jolt to our entire team and obviously to Josh. Our thoughts and our prayers are with Josh and his family right now.”

Early Sunday morning, Butler, from Mesquite, Texas, posted a message on Twitter:

“Still hard to believe, it just doesn’t feel real, but I know one thing ... no matter what he made sure my brothers & I were taken care of. Sacrificed so much and taught us everything we need to know. I’m going to continue to make you happy dad. I love you RIP DAD see you in heaven.”