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Brian Lewerke: Mark Dantonio earned right to leave Michigan State on his terms

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Indianapolis – Former Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke said he thought Mark Dantonio might wait a few more years before retiring from the game and was caught a bit off-guard when the coach recently announced he was stepping down.

Lewerke spoke Tuesday at the NFL Combine and will go through quarterback drills Thursday.

Brian Lewerke

“It was a little unexpected for me,” Lewerke said. “Coach D was a great person. He was probably the main reason I wanted to go to Michigan State. I’m thankful for everything he did for me.”

Michigan State hired Mel Tucker, who coached one season at Colorado in 2019.  

Lewerke trained in Colorado the last two months to prepare for the combine with several Buffaloes players who shared nothing but positive things about their former coach now at MSU.

“They said Mel Tucker is a great dude and I’m excited to meet him and see what he can do for the program,” Lewerke said.

The timing of Dantonio’s sudden retirement was challenging for Michigan State in terms of finding a replacement. Tucker said he was staying at Colorado after initially being contacted by the Spartans early in the process before ultimately taking the job.

“You can’t blame a guy for wanting to double his salary and double his resources,” former Colorado quarterback Steven Montez said Tuesday at the combine. “I wish him the best. There’s absolutely no bad blood between me and him. I love that man to death.”

Former Colorado receiver Laviska Shenault said Tuesday the Spartans are getting a “dedicated and hard-working coach.”

“Definitely about business, and he's going to get the most out of every player,” Shenault said. “He wants to make sure everybody is doing everything right, like I said, get the most out of everybody.”

He was disappointed to see Tucker leave Colorado.

“I didn't see it coming, but everyone knows it's a business and money does a lot of talking,” he said.

Lewerke, while surprised by Dantonio’s decision, said he had done so much for the program and could make the call whenever he felt it was best.

“It was just his time,” Lewerke said. “He’s done everything for the program. He’s basically brought it back to prominence, so I think he can do whatever he wants. He’s won Big Ten championships. My only disappointment is I wasn’t able to get one for him, too.”

He said three of the Spartans’ last four seasons — going 3-9 in 2016, then back-to-back 7-6 records in 2018 and 2019 — can wear on players and coaches and suspects that might have had something to do with Dantonio’s decision.

For his part, Lewerke had an outstanding sophomore season in 2017 throwing for 2,793 yards and 20 touchdowns against seven interceptions, but injuries slowed him the last two years.

“I don’t think I played as well as I could have, partially because of injuries and partially because I didn’t play well,” he said. “I could have played a lot better.”

He said he’s completely healthy now and NFL teams haven’t asked about injuries.

“My arm feels good,” Lewerke said. “Feel totally healthy.”

Lewerke added he would not trade any of his time at Michigan State.

“I’m proud of it,” he said. “The best decision I’ve ever made.”