EAST LANSING - There weren't many things that anyone could have said to Mark Dantonio to make him feel any better than he was already feeling as he got off the plane in Lansing following his team's flight from Tampa after Michigan State's victory over Georgia in the Outback Bowl.
But DeAnthony Arnett isn't just anyone.
Shortly after receiving his unconditional release from Tennessee to transfer to any school of his choosing, Arnett called Dantonio.
"I talked to him as soon as he got off the plane," Arnett said.
Arnett informed Dantonio that he was free to transfer to Michigan State, and that was exactly what he intended to do - if Dantonio would have him.
"Coach D was real happy about the whole thing," Arnett said. "He told me that he would come see me."
Dantonio visited Arnett in Saginaw on Wednesday and by mid-afternoon the MSU head coach finally received a verbal commitment from the Saginaw native that he began pursuing more than 30 months earlier.
"My Twitter and Facebook is blowing up right now and everybody is pretty happy and I'm just happy I'm home, happy to be green," Arnett said Wednesday night.
Arnett, who visited summer camp at Michigan State in 2010 and 2009, signed with Tennessee over Michigan State last February. He was a four-star recruit, ranked the No. 84 player in America and No. 2 in Michigan by Rivals.com.
Arnett's decision to attend Tennessee was the biggest, most heartbreaking recruiting loss of the 2010 calendar for Michigan State.
Twelve months later, gaining a transfer signature from Arnett was one of the easiest recruiting jobs Dantonio has ever had to do.
"It wasn't a hard decision at all," Arnett said of his decision to transfer to Michigan State. "It wasn't really a contest. It was Michigan State from the get-go.
"Coach D and I met up and we talked and we had a good conversation and I'm walking into a beautiful situation and I can't wait to come in and work and learn."
Arnett, who had 24 receptions as a true freshman at Tennessee during the 2011 season, sought a transfer to a Michigan school as a result of his father's health problems, which have included heart surgery and dialysis.
Initially, Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley approved a release to allow Arnett to transfer to a Mid-America Conference school in the state of Michigan, but not Michigan State or the University of Michigan - schools that Tennessee claimed competed with the Volunteers.
However, Dooley and Tennessee extended the release to include Michigan and Michigan State earlier this week. At that point, Arnett picked up the phone and called Dantonio.
"I knew I was eventually going to get the unconditional release, so that decision to choose Michigan State was pretty much already set in stone in my mind," Arnett said. "I had to wait all the way until yesterday, to talk to Michigan State, when I got officially released. I didn't even want to reach out to them. I didn't do all that. I had to wait."
Arnett said he was confident that Michigan State would have a scholarship for him when he made contact with them.
"I didn't even talk to Michigan," he said. "I don't know if they called my high school or not, I didn't even try to talk to them."
Arnett is applying to the NCAA for a medical hardship waiver. If approved, he would be eligible to play right away for Michigan State. If it is denied, he will sit out one season as a redshirt. Either way, he will have three years of eligibility at Michigan State.
The timing could not be better for Michigan State. The Spartans are graduating their three time wide receivers, plus two scholarship reserves.
No returning wide receiver had more than four catches this season.
"I just know Michigan State is losing a lot at the receiver spot," Arnett said. "They needed a play-maker with their three top receivers leaving. I know just from doing some research that in total there are only eight catches returning from receivers that have played."
Sophomores-to-be Keith Mumphrey (2 catches) and Tony Lippett (4 catches) represent six of those returning receptions. Junior-to-be Bennie Fowler, who missed most of the season with a foot injury, had two catches in 2011.
If eligible, Arnett will be a favorite to win a starting job at wide out in 2012.
Lippett, who spent most of his playing time at cornerback this season, is expected to change his area of emphasis to wide receiver this spring, due to MSU's heavy graduation at that position. However, there is increasing talk that Johnny Adams could leave MSU a year early to enter the NFL Draft. If that happens, and Arnett earn immediate eligibility, it's possible or even likely that Lippett could stay on defense.
Many of these decisions will begin to be made when spring practice begins in late March.
"I'm not coming in with a big head or anything like that; I've never been that person," Arnett said. "I think I'll be able to step in and fit right in. I'm a humble guy, real cool and I'm a quiet person but yet I'm still a leader and I'm just ready to come in and start working to help the team the best way I can."
Arnett already knew enough about Michigan State that he didn't need to visit the campus or take a closer look at the program. He likes the same things about MSU that he liked 12 months ago when the Spartans finished a close second for his services.
"They get the ball to their play-makers," he said. "It's a family atmosphere. Coach D is a great guy.
"They have a lot of team chemistry and a lot of players coming back especially on the defensive side of the ball. I'm real happy.
"I'm really happy about the whole thing. Everything is over with. I don't have to worry about anything anymore. I know where I'm going and where I'll be at."
Arnett said he began considering a transfer early in the 2011 season.
"Back in October, it was after the Georgia week (on Oct. 8) when I just knew," he said. "I had come back home from the bye week (of Sept. 24) and I had to call the coaches and let them know I didn't know how long I was going to be here, I didn't think I was going to be at Tennessee my whole four years with the condition that my dad was in.
"When I first chose to go to Tennessee, of course there were a lot of hurt fans out there. But it was a choice that I felt was going to be good at the time and was going to be great for the rest of my career. Unfortunately things happened where family issues came up and dad wasn't feeling good. Me and him talked and decided that it would be best that I would come home."
Home meant Michigan State.
"That decision was pretty much already set in stone in my mind," he said. "I had to talk with the family and take care of some in-house things."
After news of his transfer broke, Arnett began hearing from his future teammates. Andrew Maxwell, who will take over at quarterback next year as a junior and a player who competed against Arnett as a league rival in high school, was among the first to speak with Arnett.
"I spoke with Andrew earlier in the day," Arnett said on Wednesday. "All that I can tell you is that he is happy.
"And I just heard from L.T. He just sent me a text message."
That would be Lawrence Thomas, a former five-star recruit who redshirted at Michigan State this year. The middle linebacker was ranked No. 1 in the state last year, just ahead of Arnett.
"That's my boy," Arnett said. "He was really happy. L.T. is my boy."
Arnett will enroll at Michigan State this week, set an academic plan and get ready for classes when spring semester begins on Monday.
"I can't wait, man," he said.
After 30 months, neither can Dantonio and Spartan fans.
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