Very few things can make a college football coach more proud than seeing his players graduate and move to the professional level, whether it is on the field or off.
Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio is no different. He saw 13 players have their name among the best NFL prospects heading into last week’s event held in Chicago.
However, by the end of the three-day festivities, only five Spartans saw their named called. And of those five, four of them dropped to later rounds given their pre-draft stock. The exception being offensive lineman Jack Conklin going No. 8 overall to Tennessee.
Former MSU defensive end Shilique Calhoun and quarterback Connor Cook each landed in Oakland. Both were projected to go on day two in the second round. Calhoun was drafted on Friday, but in the third round. Cook meanwhile was one of the first picks on day three in the fourth round.
Dantonio expressed his disappointment seeing his collegiate star players who were integral in MSU’s success over the last handful of years, dip down on the draft board after seeing their stock gradually rise.
“It was a little bit of a frustrating day for me watching our guys, because I felt like they were good players,” Dantonio said. ” You sit there and you say, ‘well, I think he’s better than that guy, I think he’s better than that guy,’ but I’m not the NFL coach.”
Another notable player that saw his name fall down to a later round was Big Ten Receiver of the Year Aaron Burbridge. Once a projected fourth-round draft pick, Burbridge was selected in the sixth round by San Francisco.
Following the conclusion of the draft as is customary, many undrafted prospects eventually signed FA tryout contracts with NFL teams in hopes of attending camp and competing for a roster spot down the road. Among those not a part of the 253 names called in Chicago were eight former Spartans.
One of the more prominent names was two-time All-American center Jack Allen. Allen, undersized at 6-foot-1 and 294 pounds for the average NFL offensive lineman, signed a deal with the Saints.
Dantonio raved about Allen and what he meant to the MSU program:
“I think Jack Allen is one of the … best 15 football players that we’ve had in the past ten years or past nine years at Michigan State,” Dantonio said. “He’s an outstanding football player and leader, extremely strong-minded, very gifted on the football field. He’s got great leverage. He’s got an opportunity to go to the Saints and play for Dan Roushar, who recruited him and now coaches the offensive line.
Dantonio added that he is “looking forward to watching Jack and his story in the NFL.” He knows the draft process and is hopeful this draft in particular will send a message for his current and future draft prospects on his team.
“I think when our guys come and they see our players, and they know how successful they’ve been both as a team and individually, and then they watch the draft and see how competitive it is, I think it sends a number of messages to them,” Dantonio said. “Nothing is guaranteed, never forget where you came from, and continue to work hard. Your next play is the most important play.
“If we can just keep those things in mind as we move forward, we’re going to continue to have success.”
At least from the perspective of the players, again with the exception of maybe Conklin, this will give them that perpetual chip on their shoulder that the Spartan football program has grown accustomed to having over the last handful of years.