October 27, 2009

All-America LB disputes Mall of America tale

EAST LANSING - Greg Jones has become the face of the Michigan State football program during his three years on campus. Not too long, however, then first-year Spartan coach Mark Dantonio felt like he had lost out on a potential All-America linebacker to the 4.2 million square foot Mall of America.

During his Tuesday press conference, Dantonio chuckled as he recalled a conversation that he had had with Jones after the later had committed to Minnesota during his senior year at Cincinnati Archbishop Moeller.

"Why Minnesota?" And he said, "Coach, Mall of America," recalled Dantonio, who sang the praises of the malls in East Lansing when he re-recruited Jones as the head coach at Michigan State. "I said, "Hey, we've got malls in East Lansing," and we got him over the top. He came over on a visit here and we got him out to the malls, and we got him to be a Spartan. I do remember that. You never know what's going to turn a guy."

Jones said he enjoyed his visit to the Mall of America. The All-Big Ten linebacker, however, laughed off the suggestion that the world's second biggest enclosed shopping area was a deal-maker for Minnesota.

"That is something I said to him, but that was not the reason," explained Jones. "The reason was Glenn Mason. He was a great guy. He was a great coach. I really believed in him and his staff at the time and when he and his staff went away, I really didn't feel like I needed to be there anymore."

Dantonio was not clear on when his conversation with Jones about the Mall of America took place. The junior linebacker suggests that the conversation happened when Dantonio was still at Cincinnati as the head coach of the Bearcats. The coaching carousel that brought Dantonio and his staff to East Lansing and ushered Mason out of his post in Minnesota, gave the newly-hired Spartan head coach another crack at the coveted linebacker from one of the most storied football programs in Ohio.

"I felt at the time when he was at UC that I wanted to play Big Ten football," said Jones. "Then when they (Mason and his staff) got fired and he (Dantonio) moved here it was a perfect fit for me. I already had a good relationship with coach (Mike) Tressel and coach D."

Before his commitment to Minnesota became public, Jones made a series of calls to the other coaches recruiting him. Jones followed the advice of his high school coach Bob Crable, a former All-American at Notre Dame, who went on to have a successful professional career in the NFL, and was careful to show respect to each one of the suitors that finished behind Minnesota.

"To this day, I am very thankful that I did not burn that bridge," said Jones, who recorded his 300th career tackle as a Spartan against Iowa. "Because I feel like I have a really good relationship with coach Dantonio and the rest of the staff."

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