Mark Dantonio calls head strength and conditioning coach Ken Mannie, “the heart and soul of the Michigan State program,” and after looking at his resume, it’s easy to see why.
Mannie’s first years at Michigan State were under Nick Saban, and from there he survived coaching changes from Bobby Williams, to John L. Smith, to Mark Dantonio. In a profession where many coaches believe that the strength coach is the most important hire, each coach’s decision to keep Mannie on board speaks volumes.
Speaking of his time with Saban, Mannie noted that Michigan State was his first big break into college coaching, and tells a story about how Saban offered him that opportunity with a memorable phone call back in 1995.
“When he (Saban) got the position here as the head football coach, he called me at like two or three in the morning and said, ‘I’ve just been named the head football coach at Michigan State University…You coming or what?’ Mannie told the Spartan All Access crew in their Eastern Michigan installment.
Mannie said he answered with one word, “Absolutely”. Ever since then he’s been shaping his standards in the weight room, a stance he favors over having a philosophy.
“I don’t really have so much of a philosophy, as much as standards. I try to teach standards.”
“Who are you on a daily basis? What’s important to you? What do you spend most of your time doing? What are your priorities? The things that we try to get across, and this comes from the top down really, is; Who are you as a man? Are you a man worth following?
“We talk about earning the jersey here and that’s a mantra for life, it’s not just football because if it’s worthwhile, you’re going to have to earn it…it will not be given to you.”
Then coach Mannie gets a bit sentimental.
“You know, it’s amazing how you can challenge young people when they really know, deep down inside, how much you care about them, and you love ’em. You can help them go places that they’ve never been before, and help them do things, and give them the confidence and the courage and the character, help develop that character, and the heart and spirit within them to go and do things that they’ve never done before.”
Coaches like Ken Mannie are rare, and this is a great profile of a man who, beyond the shadow of a doubt, bleeds Spartan green.