Jan. 29, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - Two former Spartans and current San Francisco 49ers rookies - tight end Garrett Celek and safety Trenton Robinson - were on hand for Super Bowl Media Day Tuesday inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Celek and Robinson spoke exclusively to msuspartans.com about their rookie seasons and how playing at Michigan State has helped them at the next level.
"I can finally get out and show my abilities," said Celek, who went from an undrafted free agent to not only making the team, but appearing in the last 13 regular-season games while recording four receptions for 51 yards. "Before, sitting out pretty much two seasons (at MSU, due to shoulder injuries), it's terrible just sitting on the sidelines watching all of the guys going out there and having fun. Now, to be able to do this and just continue a season without injury, it's just been a lot of fun."
"It's been long and hard," Robinson said of the road he's traveled from being a sixth-round draft pick in April to making it to the Super Bowl. "I've kind of had to stay focused and will through some things that I haven't been used to for a long time, which was not playing, but it's been a fun journey. I've learned a lot being around the veteran safeties and the veteran DBs. I'm just focusing on this game, and will be there to support and help out everybody on the team and do what I can do."
Celek, who was a three-year letterwinner at Michigan State and played in 38 career games, including 12 starts, credits his time as a Spartan as playing a crucial role in his development as a tight end.
"Michigan State's offense is the same as our offense," said Celek when talking about how a pro-style offense in college helped his adjustment to the NFL. "I felt liked I blocked pretty well at Michigan State - they always worked on that with me when I was there. When I got with the 49ers, I mixed in well with these guys."
"It's been great, getting a chance to watch him really grow as a player coming from Michigan State," Robinson said of watching Celek his rookie season. "Seeing him there, and then seeing him at this level, I'm like...`who is he?'"
Although Robinson only saw action in the first three games of the season, he has learned immensely from San Francisco's starting safeties, Dashon Gibson and Donte Whitner, who were both Pro Bowl selections.
"It was a great fit for me," said Robinson, who was a four-year letterwinner and a first-team All-Big Ten selection as a senior in 2011. "You see our safeties here, and they hit. That's the one thing we did at Michigan State...it's just an aggressive defense. We're going to go out and we're going to hit people. That's what we do here (with the 49ers), so it's been a great fit."
After the morning session with the 49ers, msuspartans.com also caught up with Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who was the defensive coordinator at Michigan State from 1995-97 and is coaching in his third Super Bowl. Pees and Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio coached together for three seasons (1995-97) in East Lansing under Nick Saban. Pees was the defensive coordinator, while Dantonio coached the secondary.
"You absolutely appreciate every one," said Pees, who also coached in Super Bowl XXXIX and Super Bowl XLII with New England. "It is so hard to get here; I don't think anybody truly understands. You not only have to play well, you have to have some breaks along the way - we all do. It never gets old. It's humbling, and very much appreciated."
Although on opposite sides, one thing all three former Spartans could agree on was the job Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio has done in East Lansing.
"I talk to (Mark) a lot," said Pees. "There's nobody in this business that I have more respect for than Mark Dantonio. Not only his coaching ability, far beyond that, this guy is as quality of a man as I've ever known in my life. I consider him a dear, dear friend.
"He's like all of the coaches that I've worked for, whether it be Saban, whether it be (Lou) Holtz, whether it be (Bill) Belichick, (it's) his attention to detail, he's disciplined, and he's not going to let things slide. Along with his personality, that's what has made him a great success."
"Coach D gets the players motivated and his coaching staff to want to play for him," Robinson said. "If you have a team that wants to go out and play, and everybody is on the same page, then you can do great things. I feel like every year that's one thing that he works on to try and get better at."
"He's like a father-figure," said Celek, who was a member of Dantonio's first recruiting class at MSU. "I love Coach D. I knew him for three years before I went to Michigan State (Celek's brother, Brent, played for Dantonio at Cincinnati and now plays for the Philadelphia Eagles). He's just one of those guys that the bond you share, you share for the rest of your life."
San Francisco will take on Baltimore in Super Bowl XLVII Sunday at 6:30 p.m. Michigan State is looking to have a former Spartan become a Super Bowl Champion for the second-straight year, as Greg Jones and Devin Thomas won rings with the New York Giants last year in Indianapolis.
Former Spartans on All-Time Super Bowl Roster (41)
Flozell Adams, OT: Pittsburgh (XLV)
Herb Adderley, CB: Green Bay (I, II); Dallas (V, VI)
Morten Andersen, K: Atlanta (XXXIII)
Fred Arbanas, TE: Kansas City (I, IV)
Gary Ballman, TE: Minnesota (VII*)
Carl Banks, LB: New York Giants (XXI, XXV)
Tony Banks, QB: Baltimore (XXXV)
Myron Bell, S: Pittsburgh (XXX)
Larry Bethea, DT: Dallas (XII)
Ed Budde, OG: Kansas City (I, IV)
Plaxico Burress, WR: New York Giants (XLII)
Smiley Creswell, DE: New England (XX)
Billy Joe DuPree, TE: Dallas (X, XII, XIII)
Dixon Edwards, LB: Dallas (XXVII, XXVIII, XXX)
Tom Graves, LB: Pittsburgh (XIV)
Dave Herman, OT: New York Jets (III)
Brian Hoyer, QB: New England (XLVI*)
Mark Ingram, WR: New York Giants (XXV)
Bill Johnson, NT: Pittsburgh (XXX)
Clint Jones, RB: Minnesota (IV)
Greg Jones, LB: New York Giants (XLVI)
Mike Labinjo, LB: Philadelphia (XXXIX)
Ed Lothamer, DT: Kansas City (IV)
Dave Manders, C: Dallas (V, VI)
Derrick Mason, WR: Tennessee (XXXIV)
Earl Morrall, QB: Baltimore (III, V); Miami (VII, VIII)
Jim Morrissey, LB: Chicago (XX)
Muhsin Muhammad, WR: Carolina (XXXVIII), Chicago (XLI)
Greg Robinson-Randall, OT: New England (XXXVI)
Ike Reese, LB: Philadelphia (XXXIX)
Jeff Richardson, OG: New York Jets (III)
Andre Rison, WR: Green Bay (XXXI)
Paul Rochester, DT: New York Jets (III)
Butch Rolle, TE: Buffalo (XXV, XXVI)
Rich Saul, C: Los Angeles Rams (XIV)
Bubba Smith, DE: Baltimore (III, V)
Devin Thomas, WR: New York Giants (XLVI)
Matt Vanderbeek, LB/DE: Dallas (XXVIII)
Gene Washington, WR: Minnesota (IV)
Bobby Wilson, DT: Washington (XXVI)
Duane Young, TE: San Diego (XXIV)
*Did Not Play
Former Spartan Coaches in The Super Bowl (14)
Bob Casullo: Oakland (XXXVII); Seattle (XL)
Danny Crossman: Carolina (XXXVIII)
Brian Daboll: New England (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX)
Rollie Dotsch: Pittsburgh (XIII, XIV)
Sherman Lewis: San Francisco (XIX, XXIII, XXIV); Green Bay (XXXI, XXXII)
Josh McDaniels: New England (XLII, XLVI)
Dean Pees: New England (XXXIX), New England (XLII)
Skip Peete: Oakland (XXXVII)
George Perles: Pittsburgh (IX, X, XIII, XIV)
John Polonchek: Oakland (II), New England (XX)
Bill Sheridan: New York Giants (XLII)
Pat Shurmur: Philadelphia (XXXIX)
Sal Sunseri: Carolina (XXXVII)
Woody Widenhofer: Pittsburgh (IX, X, XIII, XIV)
Former Spartan Assistant Coaches on All-Time Super Bowl Roster (2)
Steve Furness, DT: Pittsburgh (IX, X, XIII, XIV)
Bill Rademacher, TE: New York Jets (III)