Intensity passion fueled Spielmans fire

From recent stars James Laurinaitis and A.J. Hawk to past greats like Tom Cousineau and Randy Gradishar, Ohio State’s linebacking corps can perennially be discussed as one of the nation’s best.And when it comes to college linebackers past and present, few rival Chris Spielman.“There is no question he is one of the best,” said Jack Park, author of The Official Ohio State Football Encyclopedia. “I can’t imagine anybody picking the top 25 players in football history at Ohio State and not including Chris Spielman in that group.”A Canton, Ohio, native, hype began surrounding Spielman in high school when his play made him the first high school athlete to land his face on a Wheaties box.In 1984, Spielman traded in his Massillon Washington High School uniform for scarlet and gray to begin what would prove to be an illustrious college football career at OSU.Both Park and Jim Karsatos, former OSU quarterback and teammate of Spielman, agreed that Spielman’s intensity set him apart.“Chris Spielman had an intensity as great as probably any football player I have ever studied or known,” Park said. “He had an intensity about him as a player that was almost unequaled.”As a freshman, Spielman wasted little time proving his intensity and passion for the game to his teammates and the Buckeye faithful.“In practice he worked as hard as anybody out there,” Karsatos said. “His intensity was contagious, even as a younger player, and the older guys fed off of that.”By his sophomore year in 1985, Spielman began to establish himself as a household name and a force to be reckoned with on the “silver bullet” defense.The play that sticks out the most in Park’s mind came in a game that year in which Spielman had 19 tackles.It was a game that pinned the Buckeyes against the No. 1-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes in the Horseshoe for what Park called one of the greatest OSU victories of all time.“It was a fourth-down play and Iowa gave it to their tailback,” Park said. “Chris made the tackle and that really started to seal the game.”“Spielman made a lot of big plays when the team needed it the most,” he said.Chris continued to make big plays over the next two seasons, as he finished his college career with 546 tackles, good for third all-time at OSU. He finished in the top 10 in Heisman voting each of his last two years, almost unprecedented at the linebacker position.“On the field, he was all over the place and he had a great nose for the ball,” Karsatos said. “He could make big plays when we needed them and on the sideline he was just as intense and kept everybody up and into the game.”Spielman exhibited his nose for the ball on the grandest of stages, including the 1986 Michigan game. He made 29 tackles that afternoon, the OSU record for most tackles in a game.“They already knew what kind of player Chris was and knew they had to block him,” Karsatos said. “For him to get in on that many tackles in that kind of football game was pretty incredible.”Following his senior season in 1987, Spielman left OSU as one of the most decorated linebackers in program history, receiving the OSU Most Valuable Player and the Lombardi Award, along with being a three-time All-Big Ten honoree and two-time All-American.Retired from a successful NFL career that included four Pro Bowl appearances, Spielman, a recent inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame, now co-hosts a Columbus sports talk radio show.Along with his work on the radio, Spielman has continued to write his legacy in the Columbus community through the efforts of him and his late wife Stefanie establishing the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research in 1998.Since its inception, the Stefanie Spielman Fund has raised over $6.5 million for breast cancer research at OSU’s James Cancer Hospital.“He will always be remembered as one of the really great football players,” Park said. “But I think years from now when people look back and say ‘what is the legacy of Chris Spielman,’ it will be what he has done for other people through the James (Cancer Hospital).”

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