Andre Sims was actually in East Lansing, Mich., the day Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio suffered a heart attack. Talked to him and everything. The Brookwood High senior was on an unofficial visit and watched as the Spartans beat Notre Dame 34-31 in dramatic fashion.
It wasn’t until Sims was back home, safe and sound in Snellville, that he learned his future coach could have died that night.
“I heard the day after when we came back,” said Sims, a wide receiver and defensive back who has been committed to the Spartans since early this summer. “Coach [Dave] Warner called and told me about it. First he said they were calling to make sure I made it home safe. Then he told me Coach Dantonio had a heart attack.”
Sims could not have been more surprised. He saw Dantonio like most everybody else did: A fitter-than-usual 54-year-old who had energy enough to fuel an entire college football program.
The truth was, Dantonio had a blockage in one of the arteries to his heart. He began experiencing symptoms — “a squeezing in his chest” — late Saturday night after the game. He was in surgery by morning.
“He’s going to be fine,” Sims said. “They said they actually took him to the hospital before he had it. They said he was having headaches and other symptoms and they got it early.”
Dantonio’s heart attack has brought attention to the stress associated with being a major college football coach. Last December, Florida coach Urban Meyer was hospitalized in Atlanta after complaining of with chest pains following the Gators’ loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. A short time later, Meyer resigned citing health concerns, only to change his mind a day later.
Wake Forest basketball coach Skip Prosser died suddenly of a heart attack at age 56 in 2007. Northwestern football coach Randy Walker died similarly in 2006 at age 52.
Sims said Dantonio’s recent health problems won’t deter him from going to Michigan State to play for him.
“No, not at all,” he said. “From what they told me, he’s very healthy actually. He works out all the time. He’s very active. I guess there is a lot of stress being a college coach, with recruiting and trying to win and all that. But I’m not really worried about it. I’m just praying for him every night.”
Meanwhile, Sims said he is enjoying his senior season at Brookwood. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound athlete has been staying busy as a wide receiver, defensive back, punt returner and kick returner for the Broncos. He had more than 200 all-purpose yards in last week’s 37-0 win over Archer. As a junior last season, Sims set school records for receptions, (56), receiving yards (915), TD catches (9), receiving yards in one game (167) and catches in one game (10).
To this point, the Spartans remain Sims’ only major college offer. He’ll go back for a second unofficial visit for their Homecoming game against Illinois, then an official visit after the season.
Sims said he is open to hearing other overtures but none have come and he’s not worried about it.
“At this point it doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “I’m happy with Michigan State.”
And that goes for Dantonio as well.