Michigan State Football: Top 5 Heisman contenders of Mark Dantonio era

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Jan 1, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Michigan State Spartans quarterback Connor Cook (18) runs with the ball against the Baylor Bears in the 2015 Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T Stadium. The Spartans defeated the Bears 42-41. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

As quite possibly one of the best coaches, if not the absolute best, in Michigan State football history, Mark Dantonio has created a winning tradition in East Lansing that was seemingly absent for decades prior to his debut for the Spartans.

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When you listen to current and future players talk about Michigan State football, three things are always mentioned: good coaching staff, family atmosphere and winning tradition. After the John L. Smith era, it didn’t seem like this day would ever come, but the Spartans are finally considered an elite college football program and it’s quite refreshing.

After years in the Big Ten’s cellar, Michigan State has risen in the ranks to become the conference’s No. 1 or No. 2 best team year in and year out. Dantonio has led this team to 11-plus wins in four out of the last five years and it’s only going up from here.

Coach D always has his players ready to play each week and it seems like his guys hang on his every word, looking for the next bit of motivation.

Being Spartans, it’s well-documented the type of disrespect the program has gotten over the years from opposing fans, media and opposing players. It seems like every season, there is a large group of doubters that gets smaller as Michigan State keeps winning, but then comes back again the next season in big numbers.

The pool of doubters might be getting smaller, however, as Dantonio’s winning attitude has served him well — well enough to be considered a serious national title contender every year now.

You can’t win national titles without some of the best players in the country, however, and Dantonio has had his fair share of nationally-recognized athletes.

Let’s take a look at the top-five Heisman contenders who Mark Dantonio has had in his nine-year tenure in East Lansing.

Next: 5. Devin Thomas, WR