'Dream Come True' For MSU's Tucker, Who Started Coaching Career In East Lansing

Tucker's coaching career path has come full-circle back to East Lansing.

97.1 The Ticket
February 12, 2020 - 8:03 pm
Mel Tucker

Photo: Jon Hewett / WWJ

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EAST LANSING, Mich. (97.1 The Ticket) -- When Mel Tucker stepped to the podium Wednesday night to be introduced as the head coach of the Michigan State football team, it was a dream come true and a career path come full-circle.

That dream began to take shape more than two decades ago when he broke into the coaching ranks as a graduate assistant for the Spartans under Nick Saban in 1997. Tucker's path has seen three different stints with Nick Saban, a partnership with his predecessor Mark Dantonio, and a decade in the NFL before returning to college.

Now, Tucker is back in East Lansing where it all began, something he says he'd always hoped for.

"My dream was to come back here and be the head coach, that was my dream," Tucker said. "When you work for a guy like Nick Saban, you can't help but aspire to be in that position one day and do that. This is certainly a dream come true for me, to be back here."

Those 23 years have flown by for Tucker. It seems like just yesterday, he says, that he was in East Lansing as a 25-year-old grad student making $400 a month, sleeping at his desk.

"I tried to always make sure that when Nick Saban walked past the GA office I was there, coming and going. You could hear him shaking that change in his pocket coming down the hall and you knew coach Saban was coming. I was right there at attention," Tucker said.

Tucker's second stint with Saban came in 2000 as a secondary coach at LSU, before linking up with Mark Dantonio at Ohio State under Jim Tressel. He returned to the college ranks in 2015 as assistant head coach and defensive backs coach under Saban at Alabama, when the Crimson Tide beat Michigan State en route to a national title.

Saban commended the Spartans on hiring Tucker earlier Wednesday, saying his former colleague would do a "tremendous" job at MSU.

"Mel has made a name for himself as one of the best and brightest coaches in our profession," said Saban, via MSU's website. "I believe he will do a tremendous job as the head coach of the Spartans. MSU is getting a guy with infinite class and a great personality, who is smart, works hard, and does it with an incredible amount of enthusiasm and positive energy. Mel is a tireless recruiter who knows the game of college football and understands what it will take to be successful in East Lansing."

Tucker says he and his family are excited to be back in East Lansing -- where he and his wife got engaged -- and take it all in, but he's ready to get down to business.

"We want to hit the ground running. Time is of the essence, we're not going to waste any time," Tucker said. "We're going to be efficient, we're going to be effective in everything we do. We're going to recruit, we're going to identify the players we feel like can help us and then we're going to target them and recruit them with the intent of signing those guys."