Don’t feed the gator: Team watches as prank goes wrong during Michigan State practice

TAMPA, Fla. — The Michigan State Spartans got more of an alligator show than anyone planned following practice Thursday at Tampa Jesuit High School.

Coach Mark Dantonio wanted to surprise the players and his staff by having a guy in MSU football gear run over and wrestle an alligator.

In the end, the players saw firsthand what could happen when the alligator bit and clamped down on the handler’s leg. Dantonio said the handler wasn’t seriously injured.

“We always build a theme around the football season a little bit,” Dantonio said. “One of our themes has been listening to Muhammad Ali videos, when he talks about getting ready to fight George Foreman or whatever. In the video, he talks about doing new things, he’s been chopping down trees, he’s been tussling with the whale, he’s done wrestled an alligator. Handcuffed lightning and threw thunder in jail.”

Dantonio even had four guys jump up and say they were doing those same things.

At the end of practice, Dantonio said he was going ask Trenton Robinson, one of the senior captains, about claiming to wrestle an alligator and then point to the real one walking around.

“They saw the alligator walking,” Dantonio said. “Our plant, the handler of the alligator took off running to wrestle it.”

The handler was dressed up like an MSU player, reportedly wearing the number of long snapper Steve Moore, and slipped. Dantonio said the handler didn’t panic and was OK afterward.

“It was crazy, I wasn’t going near it,” said senior wide receiver Keshawn Martin.

Senior wide receiver Keith Nichol said when the alligator clamped on the guy’s leg, it wasn’t part of the intended show and started to back away. “I watch too much ‘Animal Planet,’” he said.

Nichol said the gator’s chomp was so quick they couldn’t even see it. “It was incredible,” Nichol said.

The team was told the alligator was 8 years old and more than 7 feet long.

“We’re trying to make life moments down here,” Dantonio said. “We wanted to do something they’ll remember the rest of their life. I think they’ll remember that one.”

It wasn’t just about having them pet an alligator, as some of the players and Dantonio did later.

“We’ve talked about different things over the course of the year,” Dantonio said. “The whole thing with Ali was, we gotta end with a flurry. End with a flurry, that’s why Ali was up there talking. To hear him talk when he was in his prime, to listen to him talk, it’s pretty special. It has an effect on young people.

“He was truly a great champion. I think it’s a great example to our football team of what we’re looking for and that’s why we did it.”


Posted by Tribune News Services

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