Former Michigan State defensive tackle Craig Evans spoke passionately on Current Sports with Al Martin, coming to the aid of head coach Mark Dantonio in light of the ESPN "E:60" report. The report details alleged mishandling of sexual assault claims within Dantonio's program.
Evans praises the leadership of Dantonio, questioning the validity of the report, and gives an emotional plea to "Spartan Nation" to let the facts come to light before casting judgment.
Evans played for the Spartans from 2014-15 before leaving the program due to "personal reasons" back in April of 2016. Evans revealed that those “personal reasons” stemmed from his marijuana use that led to failed drug tests. However, Evans doesn’t hold any grudges toward MSU and spoke on what brought him to East Lansing from the beginning.
“If we had to dive right into what got me to believe and trust in Mark Dantonio with my future for the upcoming years, it was just his authentic-ness, you know his realness. He didn’t shoot a code much, he didn’t beat around the bush and that’s just the type of guy I am.”
“Also, Coach Pat Narduzzi (former MSU defensive coordinator), he’s not there anymore, but he was a big piece of my recruitment. That guy was a stand-up guy, just very well spoken, down to the book. So those two guys alone really combined to get me there. But mostly you know, real and authentic.”
Coming out of high school, Evans was the top recruit in the state of Wisconsin after playing at Sun Prairie High School.
“One thing I remember Coach D said to me was... you know, I was a big recruit coming out of high school. I had a lot of schools coming at me and one thing he said to me that really stirred my attention was, ‘You know Craig, you know you’re a big time recruit, but I’ll tell you right now we’re not going to do anything out of the ordinary to get you to come here. If you come to Michigan State it’s going to be strictly because you want to come here. Not because of something you heard from the players, something you heard from us, we’re not going to sit here and say you’re starting or doing this or that. If you want to come to Michigan State, it’s going to be strictly because you want to.’ That shifted the game. That shifted the recruiting process for me because he was one of the first coaches that really approached me like that.”
“Every other coach is going talk about their uniforms. They’re going to talk about their facilities. They’re going to talk about how much money they’re getting and how much money Nike is giving them or Adidas or unknown. Whatever the situation is, not many coaches when they’re recruiting are going to sit there and tell you the real.”
“When I got around the players on my official visit, you can ask them guys: Lawrence Thomas, Shilique Calhoun, Joel Heath. They’re all in the league now, but they were D-lineman ahead of me at my time there. I would ask them on my visit, ‘Man, what’s the deal? Like what’s the real? Am I going to come here and I’m going to play or am I going to come here and it’s just going to be bull?’ They said, ‘Man you’re going to come here and Coach D is going to give you an opportunity. Coach D loves freshmen.”
“I was just seeing if what Coach D was saying was real and like I said, that backed it up. I had already knew what he was saying was real, but that just goes to show when I asked the players, they were all for him. If I had to say one word that really just struck my attention with Coach D it would be his realness. He’s one of the realest in the game.”
When asked if he saw a long, successful tenure at Michigan State, Evans said, “Most definitely. It was all peaches and cream man. If I came there and did what I had to do then they were going to be there for me. I’m 23. I just turned 23. I only grow up, I only get older at life. I just sit back and think back about some of Coach D’s words. I was young back then and he told me though. Everything he told me was about myself. My future there, everything was laid out for me at Michigan State.”
“That’s why when I hear this, hear the stuff with Larry Nassar and people trying to come at Coach D I just… you know, I’m not a guy that’s about the media. I don’t even care and I don’t want no attention, but y’all are not going to dog my guy. I don’t even rock like that.”
When elaborating on how he was kicked-off the team due to problems with marijuana use, Evans says…
“It makes my stomach cringe now to think about it because it was nothing he did. You know Coach D, man.. he went to war for me. It was all on me. It was all on me and my boy Tez. You can call Tez and he’ll tell you the same thing. Us leaving Michigan State was on us. We forced Coach D’s hands. He told us, once you put me in a situation to where it’s out of my hands, I can’t do nothing for you anymore. I’m going to go to war for you as long as I can. Me and Tez, we fell short end on the weed situation. I’m proud about my history. I’m not ashamed of mine you know. The struggle made me. I’m better, I’m a better man today. But, it was weed, man.”
“I was failing drug tests and Coach D was bending over backwards for me, left and right trying to get me to see the bigger picture. Socially man I just couldn’t get it together. On the field I had it. I wasn’t a troubled kid. I didn’t get into trouble out there with the law. It was just socially. I was just smoking weed. Smoking too much weed and it got to a point I had failed the NCAA test and that’s when all the spectrum got on me. Now everybody knew I smoked and it’s not an MSU thing anymore, it’s an everybody thing now.”
Evans continued to say, “Then I still didn’t stop and Coach D was still giving me chances. Like is said, he went to bat for me. It makes me sad to even think about, but he went to bat for me. He went as far as he could go. He didn’t even want to let us go. I promise you to God he didn’t man, it came down to us because if I would have stayed there I would have had to sit out a whole year and a half on some bull.”
Evans decided to leave in order to avoid sitting out for a year and a half. He is now a member of the Oregon State football team.
“I was going to declare the draft after this year. They had me going late fifth round, I didn’t even play a snap this year because of the stuff I’ve been dealing with at Michigan State. It has still been following me and the NCAA is making me go through a thousand loops to get eligible again.”
Stuck in the decision making process, Evans trusted in Dantonio once again.
“When I was going to declare for the draft, I actually had called Coach D because you know when you get to that level the scouts call back to all these former schools. Coach D was all in my corner.”
“It was all positive for me and Coach D every time we talked. I talked to him maybe a month ago because I didn’t know if I was going to do it, but I decided to come back for my last season. But at the time I was going to do it and I was actually going to go back to Michigan State’s Pro-Day. But, I ended up deciding to come back for my last year and that was the end of that.”
“But, he was willing to vouch for me with the scouts and to different coaches. I was thinking about going to a different school and he still was like ‘man if you need me to vouch for you, if you need some coaches just tell them to call me. Don’t hesitate.’ Like I said, he knows I’m not a bad student. I just fell short on the social part,” Evans said.
In the midst of all of the unfortunate truths that are coming to light here at Michigan State, one can’t help but to wonder what the culture of the Spartan football program is for certain.
When asked Evans said, “The culture was to be an outstanding Spartan man. To stand behind that Spartan will and represent it with every good deed and every good bone in your body. Between Coach Mannie, that strengthening program and Coach D, you know there’s no slipping between the cracks. You were going to get dealt with if you were late, if you were this.”
“Have you ever been scared when you got in trouble? Do you remember when you got in trouble when you were young and your stomach was hurting and you wanted to come home? That’s how it used to be when you were late. If you were a minute late, even if you were there on time you were late. That just goes to speak on the responsibilities and the standards Coach D held us at and the characteristics of the program. If you think he didn’t play about being late, you think he is going to play about this sexual stuff?”
Evans claims that although he could be mad at Dantonio for letting him go even though he was such a good talent, he would never choose to operate in that manner. He was quick to come to the defense of Dantonio rather.
“I’m going to represent this man and I say that because I know what he stands for and I know what he’s about. At the end of the day, when all is all, when everything rains down and all is said, I know what Coach D is about. I know for a fact, I’m willing to bet my life on it! My whole entire life that he wouldn’t operate like that. That he wouldn’t operate in the sense where he was covering up sexual stuff.”
“I’m telling you. You could ask anybody on the team. Former player or not. If you put yourself in a situation that had sexual anything over it, you were damn near off the team. You could have been innocent from the start, I promise you. You know I used to feel sorry for some of my homies. You could have been innocent. He isn’t trying to hear none of that because you shouldn’t of put yourself in that situation for that to happen to you,” Evans said.
Evans shared how sexual assault was viewed by the staff and said, “If it was anything involving the opposite sex like domestic violence or anything sexual assault, anything that was a girl’s voice versus a football player, Coach D wasn’t even budging. It wasn’t even like he was trying to hear you out. The minute your name got into a situation, it was red locked. I’m talking about the minute it hit the fan and he got wind, it was red locked. Then as the story went on and he got into it, then he made a decision. ‘Alright, you’re gone. Go handle this.’ Or he made a decision, ‘Ok go handle this and you’re red locked until handle this. Until your name comes clear of this.’”
Evans said that during his two years at Michigan State, he did not experience any drama himself or on the team involving sexual assault or violence against women.
“To be honest man, in my two years there I didn’t experience it. I’m trying to think. I’m thinking long and hard. I don’t want to put out no lies. I’m going to be completely honest about this. I’m thinking hard and I didn’t hear about nothing until I left and that situation with those the younger guys a year younger than me happened, the new cats.”
On June 4th, 2017, former MSU football players Josh King, Demetric Vance and Donnie Corley were officially charged with sexual assault. Evans said he didn’t know them well and that the case happened after he left Michigan State.
“They were the class younger than me. They actually had got there the summer we left. But, you know they came on their recruiting visit. Austin Robertson had his own case. All that started happening after I left and it just dropped my mouth. The first thing I thought when I started seeing all this was damn. Them boys gone. They put Coach D on the heat and he still is going to be on the heat for this because they are going to look at him like, ‘Why are these players even on your program?’ I already know how this business goes when they’re trying to make you look bad so I knew he was still going to catch some type of heat from it.”
“One thing I did know, they were gone and there was no doubt about that. He was removing them off the team and he was going to move forward from that. He was going to handle the media and you see what type of season he had this year because he is going about everything the right way. I don’t care what you say.”
While reports from ESPN’s Outside The Lines and E:60 were coming out, ideas were being tossed out saying that Dantonio knew about other incidents, but was covering them up. Another idea was that Dantonio may not have known about everything going on off the field, but trusted his staff to handle situations. Evans couldn’t fathom the idea.
“To be honest, I just can’t find it within me to believe that. I just can’t. He let a player like me go, I’m still on my way to the league. He let a player like Montez Sweat go and you see what he is doing at Mississippi State. Enoch Smith, you know he’s just letting players go. If it was anything to deter the attention of the team, he was letting you go. Period. He didn’t care how good you were.”
“You have to be damn good for this man to put his job on the line for this sexual assault. I don’t even know what you said, I don’t even know what is possible to be said to Coach D because he’s letting players go for weed. He let me go for weed. He let Montez Sweat go for weed. He let us go for weed man. Weed man. Nothing else. I promise to God, it was nothing else. And you’re sitting there telling me that this man is covering up for players quote on quote, with sexual assault?! There’s not a bone in my body man. I’m like my guy Mike. You have to show me the facts. I need facts! I need facts. Because that isn’t going to cut it.”
Evans concluded his thoughts with a message for Spartan Nation which seemed almost to be an outcry for support for Mark Dantonio and even Michigan State men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo.
“I just want to say, I don’t know how much people believe in God, but I do. God don’t believe in sexual predators and God don’t believe in anybody who surrounds themselves with that. Coach D’s teams at Michigan State speaks for itself. Look at what the man did over the years. God is not bringing no good deed to that if that man is moving the way he is moving. I’m just one hundred percent.”
“Coach D to Michigan State. Go back to the basics, go back to the facts. Go back to the proof of what this man did to the university, what he brought to the the university. Go back and see the players in the league, how they’re doing well. Go back and see how the players who aren’t even playing football what they’re doing with their lives. Just go back to the basics.”
Evans was sure to reiterate over and over that people should believe none of what they hear, but everything of what they see.
“Until you get facts, do not turn your head against Coach Izzo or Coach Mark Dantonio. I can speak for Coach Izzo, that man recruited me. Those guys are not cut like that.”
“Y’all should be like me. If we don’t have no facts, we don’t have no room to be saying anything. We need hard facts. I need to see black and white. I need to see an email saying Coach D did this. I need to see a phone call, something! Let me see something. Right now I’m just hearing it and hearing is not going to cut it for me.”
“This world is full of ‘he said, she said’ media. This world is filled with the media that can attack and destroy someone’s character. Not me. I’m not going to let you do me like that. I’m not immature, I’m not a little boy like that. I see past all that. I’m hoping all the other Michigan State fans are grown, mature and can see past the media side of it and want some facts.”
For full interview, listen here.