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Jonathan Smith is bringing a family culture to Michigan State

Jonathan Smith is a “culture” guy.



Jonathan Smith
© Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

If we learned anything about Jonathan Smith from his introductory presser, it’s that he’s bringing a family culture to MSU.

Jonathan Smith just finished up his introductory presser. And I cannot express enough how excited I am for his tenure as the 26th head coach of Michigan State football. During his opening remarks, you could just tell he is the ultimate “culture” hire MSU could have asked for. 

How did MSU get here?

Sure, it is easy to get excited about any coach who comes on campus. The honeymoon phase is new, filled with excitement and promise. I remember three years ago looking forward to the Mel Tucker era getting underway with great anticipation after a sluggish end to the Mark Dantonio years.

But as we watched Smith’s predecessor recruit and coach, you could see his ego poking through. He was at the front and center of every graphic, every picture. And ultimately it was his selfishness that set the program back.

This offseason, MSU football was in desperate need of a cultural reset, spearheaded by a leader of men.

A family coach with humility

Smith is the anti-Tucker. He conversely reins his ego in. You can see it most significantly in the way he talks about his family. He choked up looking at his wife Candace, and three children, Robert, Bella, and Charles. He thanked them for their support in his journey from Corvallis to East Lansing. Above all else, you know they are the reason for Smith doing what he does.

Smith wants to bring the family environment back to MSU. It is evident he felt a personal bond with everyone he interacted with at Oregon State, which is why so much of that coaching staff is coming along for the ride.

That “family” mentality is going to win players and coaches over. It’s undoubtedly what you need to rebuild a program and do it the right way. To have a cohesive unit on the field you need to have a cohesive unit off the field. It’s how Tom Izzo operates, and why you see players continue to return to campus even well after graduating.

You can tell at the end of the Dantonio and Tucker eras that there were a lot of personalities in that locker room that went unchecked. Jonathan Smith is putting that to rest by a team mantra of “low ego, high output.”


It remains to be seen if Smith can turn things around in a very loaded and ever-expanding Big Ten. But at the end of a very messy coaching tenure from Tucker, MSU needed to hire a guy who values family and ethics over everything. And they certainly achieved that.

I graduated from MSU in 2016 with a BS in Electrical Engineering. I met my wife there, and we now live in Madison, WI with our two boys (ages 3 and 1). I write on here and spew on Twitter as an outlet for my useless MSU sports knowledge.


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