It happens every year around this time, and on Tuesday, it happened again.
The Michigan State Spartans' senior class talked about the MSU annual football banquet that happened earlier this week and talked about the incredibly moving speech given by departing defensive star, Darqueze Dennard, who was known throughout the locker room affectionately as "Country", reflecting his Dry Branch, Georgia small town roots.
Dennard was announced earlier as the winner of the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the top defensive back in the nation each year. The young athlete was Michigan State's first player to win the award.
Throughout all of the honors of the night, it was Dennard's words that impressed attendees and his fellow teammates and coaches the most, though. He spoke of his fondness for MSU co-offensive coordinator Dave Warner for “coming down to the country and getting me,” and was visibly overcome with emotion when he thanked head coach Mark Dantonio for “helping me be a man” and for “being the father figure I never had.”
Dennard took home the team MVP award for the season, thanks in large part to his indomitable efforts swatting down passes and nabbing interceptions in the backfield throughout the year. He was also announced as a consensus All-America status player.
After the speech, Dennard talked about the impact of his words.
“In high school we really didn’t have goals of getting out from where I was ... it wasn’t gonna happen,” said Dennard. “Who knows what I would be doing? I’m just grateful for everything (Dantonio) and the coaching staff have done. That’s what came out, I just wanted it to be real and that’s what happened. I got very emotional.”
Dantonio himself took the opportunity to reflect on Dennard's speech as a perfect exemplification for why he got into the business in the first place.
“That’s why I coach,” Dantonio said. “I’m not naive. I have to win — we have to win. That’s a part of it. But you begin coaching because of kids. At the ground level, it’s because of young people.
“The results of it are that usually you win. If you can just keep it real for people, the pieces will fall into the puzzle.”
You can follow MSU writer, Michael Ferro, at twitter.com/MichaelFerro.