EAST LANSING – Antjuan Simmons never expected to be introduced by a university president to speak during a press conference broadcast live on TV.
But that’s the position the Michigan State junior linebacker found himself in on Wednesday night while speaking in the Breslin Center’s Gilbert Pavilion. It was part of a ceremony to introduce Mel Tucker as the Spartans ’new coach. Simmons used his brief remarks to touch on their first meeting between Tucker and the team, which occurred shortly before that.
“That team meeting, it was intense,” Simmons said with a smile while talking a few feet in front of Tucker. “We’re going to play for you.”
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Tucker, coming off one season at Colorado, was hired Wednesday as the program’s 43 th head coach, replacing Mark Dantonio, who announced his retirement on Feb. 4 after 23 seasons leading the Spartans. He hopped on a plane in Colorado on Wednesday with his wife and two sons, was in the room to be approved by the Board of Trustees a few hours later and met the team. A video released by the university captured the moment when Tucker walked into the Duffy Daugherty Football Building and was given a standing ovation from the players.
“It was sad, it was tough news,” Simmons said. “It’s adversity. Coach D, I wouldn’t say he was grooming us but every so often he would sneak something in there like ‘one day I’m not going to be here one day.’ It was tough but it was needed. Like Coach Tucker was saying, it was time for change. It’s time for a new era. ”
Tucker, a former defensive back at Wisconsin, made his coaching debut as a graduate assistant at Michigan State from 2020 – under Nick Saban. He has years of coaching experience, including a decade in the NFL, and is coming off his first Season as a head coach, posting a 5-7 record at Colorado. Tucker cited his love and passion for football, which Simmons said was evident during the first team meeting.
“The message, kind of in a nutshell, is that we are all in this thing together,” Tucker said of what he told the team. “I have your back and we’re going to support you, myself and my staff. It’s not going to be easy. We’re going to work really hard. We’re going to have a culture of accountability, a sense of urgency, attention to detail, unselfishness, relentless attitude, competition, and it’s going to be worth it. It’s going to be worth it. But we’re going to do it together. Every single person, every single player, is important in our program. Everyone’s got a clean slate at this point with me and we’re going to move forward from this point as a football team. ”
“There’s no way I’ll get to know him or find out what type of coach he is by looking at some stuff online,” Simmons said. “I wanted to meet him in person, see what type of coach he is, see what type of guy he is and he definitely did not disappoint, definitely didn’t disappoint.”
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