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“Football has given me everything I have," said Mel Tucker, after being introduced as Michigan State's next football coach The Detroit News

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Mel Tucker is no stranger to East Lansing, and he's no stranger to Mark Dantonio.

Tucker, as a graduate assistant, worked with Dantonio at Michigan State in the 1990s, and when Dantonio went to Ohio State in the early 2000s, he hired Tucker to coach the secondary.

Dantonio was Ohio State's defensive coordinator from 2001-13, and Tucker coached the defensive backs.

"I first came in contact with Mel when he was the graduate assistant here at Michigan State for Coach (Nick) Saban. He did an outstanding job with the defensive backs," Dantonio said in a statement Wednesday, after Tucker was named his successor. "When I went to Ohio State to work for Coach Tressel, he asked me who should coach the secondary, and I immediately thought of Mel. He was a part of the national-championship staff and has gone on to coach at the highest levels of football.

"Mel is charismatic, brings good energy, and is a very forward thinker. He's also an outstanding recruiter who connects with his players, but also holds them accountable. He's from the Midwest and has a Spartan background with knowledge of the Big Ten.

"I'm extremely excited for Mel and his family. I'm looking to support him in any way possible. Go Green!"

Dantonio, 63, retired eight days ago after 13 seasons on the job, and while the front-runner to replace him seemed to be Cincinnati's Luke Fickell — another Dantonio friend — Tucker will be Michigan State's 25th head football coach.

Dantonio was expected to be a part of the coaching search, headed by athletic director Bill Beekman.

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Tucker, 48, has had a two-decades-plus coaching career has taken him to several stops in college and the NFL. He's worked at three stops for Saban, and was defensive coordinator at Georgia before joining Colorado in 2019. Colorado was his first head-coaching job.

His coach at Georgia, Kirby Smart, also issued a statement praising MSU's hire.

"I worked with Mel at Alabama and when I became the head coach at Georgia, a top priority was to bring Mel along in the defensive coordinator role," Smart said. " In his three years at UGA, he was a great coach, trusted friend and colleague, and role model for our players. Mel helped us build the foundation of the program we have at Georgia and I'm confident he'll be a great fit for the Spartans."

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984

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