MSU coach talks about team bonding and how the seniors carry the torch.
Chicago — Michigan State has shown it’s willing to think outside the box while building its program, and its latest hire is something almost no other program has done.
The Spartans announced last week they hired former Detroit Lions front-office member Sheldon White to be a program consultant. White, a former NFL player, spent 19 years with the Lions, finishing last season as the interim general manager after Martin Mayhew was dismissed.
“We’re very fortunate to hire him,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said Tuesday at Big Ten media days. “Coming off his time with the Lions, I thought what we would be able to accomplish is he would be able to come on as a consultant and really a guy who analyzes things for us. Whether it be watching players in practice, whether it be mentoring our NFL guys or basically taking the entire program and looking at it and taking a part of it and then sitting with me for a half hour or so every week and say, ‘How can we make it better?’
“I think he’s gonna have a great impact on us.”
Other programs have hired consultants with NFL experience to aid in coaching, but a front-office move is something that hasn’t happened.
Penn State coach James Franklin hired former NFL coach Jim Haslett last season to be a “sounding board for the coaching staff,” while last season Florida coach Jim McElwain hired former NFL quarterback Charlie Frye to be a program consultant. Frye’s responsibilities were to assist the Gators with player development and mental conditioning.
This year, Alabama coach Nick Saban hired former Maryland coach Mike Locksley to be an offensive consultant.
None of those, however, are quite the same as bringing in someone who is more involved in personnel and not coaching.
“The information came available that he was interested in staying involved in football for this particular season,” Dantonio said. “Whether he remains in college or goes back to the NFL is in question, but I saw an opportunity to get somebody involved from a higher level that could be a consultant, that could be a guy that could analyze various things in our program and could be an asset, a role model for us, an impact to our players.
“He gives us an NFL perspective on things from the standpoint of how they do things to how they evaluate personnel. All the things and the contacts he has in the NFL is a win situation for us, certainly, and a win situation for him, hopefully, to get him involved in our program.”
White, who Dantonio said started working on Monday, is the father of Cody White, a three-star receiver from Walled Lake who has committed to be part of Michigan State’s 2017 class.
But it’s his NFL experience that was the key for Dantonio.
“Just looking at talent and the total package,” Dantonio said. “I just know that’s where we’re at now, if you’re playing for Michigan State right now with the success that we’ve had, if you’re a starter for us you’ve got an opportunity to play at the next level. It all should fall in line.”
Michigan State last made an out-of-the-box hire in 2013 when Curtis Blackwell was named Director of College Advancement and Performance with the goal of improving Michigan State’s recruiting. Blackwell was one of the founders of the Sound Mind Sound Body camp and had strong ties to Detroit.
Since he’s come on board, Michigan State’s recruiting has continued to accelerate.
“With the support from our administration we’ve been able to do some creative things and it’s impacted our program in a positive way,” Dantonio said. “I go back to our staff. We’ve had our staff in place and been tremendously successful. Our administration values that and has given us the tools and resources to keep them in place and add other outstanding individuals.”