Sept. 12, 2013
By Brock Lewandowski, MSU Athletic Communications Student Assistant
The local Olive Garden is packed as usual, but as you're being seated you notice that most of the noise in the restaurant is coming from just one table. The family at this table is pretty obnoxious, but you can tell that they're having a great time even though they're not the usual kind of family.
It's the Michigan State football offensive line family and the one you notice out of this rowdy pack is a guy with the most impressive handlebar moustache you may have ever seen. The one with this Yosemite Sam facial hair with some all-you-can-eat breadstick crumbs sprinkled in is Dan France, and he's the one making them all laugh, even though he won't necessarily admit it.
"I just tell jokes," said France, a towering 6-6, 312-pound lineman who started the past two years at left tackle and now lines up at right guard. "I'm really sarcastic at times. I just do random acts out of nowhere and people think it's funny. When you're going through the dog days of camp or a rough practice, I just try to lighten the mood, bring some positive energy to the group."
A fifth-year senior from North Royalton, Ohio, France has helped bring this boisterous bunch together during his time at MSU.
"I feel like the whole dynamic has changed since I've been here," he said. "I remember when I was a freshman, the seniors didn't really talk to the freshman. Now it's completely different. The whole group will go to a movie on any specific night. We'll get in a big group text that we want to see whatever movie and we'll all meet up at a movie as a group. We have a good time together."
What counts as a good time?
"With our sense of humor, we're all big fans of Step Brothers the movie," he said.
"I feel like we all find that to be a great movie. We're always quoting lines at that movie for a little laugh. I'd probably be Will Ferrell's character Brennan."
France's similarities to the character didn't get unnoticed, as his face was edited into a scene from the movie on a team video that was shown during preseason camp last year. Though for someone that contributes so much to the group dynamic of the offensive line, he was a long way from playing Division I football in high school.
"I was a really big soccer player until the seventh grade," recalled France. "My brother, he's three years older than me, started playing football when he was in ninth grade and I was in sixth grade playing soccer. I saw him play football and wanted to be like my big brother so I started playing football. I could have still been playing soccer right now. Who knows? I give all the credit to my brother.
"He's a really hard worker. He never complains about anything. He's always giving me motivation. He's always been there for me when I've had a bad day or a bad game. I really look up to him. I remember when I was a sophomore in high school, he's said he thought I could play college football or basketball. I was like 200 pounds, a little skinny sophomore in high school and I thought no, but I ended up playing football here.
"I had no idea I was going to play D1 after my junior year, then all of a sudden, boom. It was surreal. It was crazy."
Dan the Family Man owes a lot to his family at home and at school and figures he might keep that in mind when he moves on from football.
"My whole family works at Sherwin-Williams," said France, "so I'll probably end up somehow working at Sherwin-Williams. My brother works there, my mom works there, my aunt and my uncle used to work there, my two best friends from home work there, so it's kind of in my blood."
Before he moves on to paint in the blood, he'd like to relive one of his favorite memories from being a Spartan on a different stage.
"After regulation in the Outback Bowl, when we were all on the sidelines and that song by Jay Z and Kanye came on, we all started jumping around," said France. "It was basically a big party on the sidelines. That was so much fun. That's one thing I really remember, I was just having a blast.
"I remember after the scrimmage on the final day of preseason camp, we all went in the locker room, they brought speakers in and turned on a few songs we liked. We were all in a circle dancing and we one at a time went in and broke it down. It'd be sweet if we could do that at the Rose Bowl. It'd be the greatest feeling."
The group at the table at Olive Garden, they're still having a good time, so keep on jumping to Jay Z and Kanye, Night Hawk.
Getting to Know Dan France
If you could be any character in a movie, who would you be?
"I'd probably be Spiderman because he can use his web to go all over the city."
If you could be any color crayon, what color would you be and why?
"The only color crayon I can think of is green and that's my favorite color."
What would be your weapon of choice in a zombie apocalypse?
"Shotgun. I've never shot a gun actually, but I play Modern Warfare and that's my favorite weapon in the game."
What do think of Ben Affleck's casting as Batman?
"I'm really kind of indifferent. I feel they could of gotten a better actor, you know Christian Bale was pretty good. He's got big shoes to fill. I hope he does well."
This feature was originally published in the Sept. 7 edition of Michigan State Football Gameday Magazine.