Unselfish Spencer Showing His Worth

Ohio State senior wide receiver Evan Spencer is not among the statistical leaders on the Buckeyes, but head coach Urban Meyer does not hesitate in calling Spencer the team's most valuable player. The senior's efforts against Alabama put him in the spotlight leading up to Ohio State's national title tilt vs. Oregon.

It is very rare for a team’s ninth-leading receiver to be called its MVP, but that is exactly how Urban Meyer sees Evan Spencer.

The senior wide receiver might not have the most gaudy stats on the Ohio State football team, but Meyer and his teammates know Spencer’s impact is far more than just numbers. In fact, Meyer laid as much praise on the son of former OSU running back Tim Spencer as possible earlier this week.

“He’s the MVP. He’s the MVP of our team,” Meyer said. “He’s the leader of our team. He’s the guy that at the right time, I’ll probably make an executive decision and make him a captain. He’s a wonderful kid. He’s really what, to me, football is all about.”

Spencer’s accolade-worthy efforts were on display vs. No. 1 Alabama in Sugar Bowl. He caught just one pass for 7 yards, but he made a pair of plays that helped give the Buckeyes a 42-35 win over the Crimson Tide. The first came in the final seconds of the second quarter. With the Buckeyes trailing 21-13 and 19 seconds remaining before halftime, OSU quarterback Cardale Jones took a shotgun snap and handed off to Jalin Marshall, who was running right. Marshall then pitched the ball to Specner, who was going left.

Instead of rushing around end – as he did on the exact same play against Michigan State – Spencer threw the ball. His throw to the end zone was grabbed by a leaping Michael Thomas, who got his left foot down for a touchdown before falling out of bounds.

“It’s up to my discretion whether or not to throw. If I don't like the look I'm supposed to tuck it and run or throw it out of bounds,” Spencer said. “When we called it, I was kind of reading the defense to see what I got. Once I kind of got the pitch and set up in the pocket I realized I had a pocket and I didn't really have an opportunity to run. Then I just kind of saw Mike flash and I knew if I put it in the right spot he could get it and he would get it. I sat back there and let it go and tried to put it in a spot where he could make a play.”

The TD gave the Buckeyes the momentum heading into the break, and Spencer later helped Ohio State score the game-clinching touchdown in the fourth quarter when he recorded a key block that helped spring Ezekiel Elliott for an 85-yard touchdown run with 3:24 remaining.

Spencer had heard Meyer call him the team’s MVP prior to the Sugar Bowl, and teammates know exactly why the head coach would say such a thing.

“Because he really is the MVP,” junior linebacker Joshua Perry said. “You turn on the film and he doesn’t get targeted a ton, doesn’t have the most touchdowns on the team, most receptions, most yards or whatever.

“Great special teams plays, clutch plays when we need them, great leadership, selfless player. When you have a guy as talented as him who does all those things even though he’s not getting the stats that he wants, that’s why he’s the MVP.”

Added senior wide receiver Devin Smith: “Whatever you want Evan to do, you just tell him once and he’ll do it. He handles his business on and off the field, and it’s frustrating when you’ve got a guy like that that works so hard and doesn’t have as many catches or have many TDs. He never complains. He never trips on a coach. It’s never, ‘Why am I not touching the ball?’ All he wants to do is win, and you can see it on his face after every game that we play and we won. He has a big smile on his face.”

Spencer himself said he portrays himself the way he does in order to provide a good example for younger receivers like Johnny Dixon and Terry McLaurin.

“Like (strength coach Anthony) Schlegel says, I try to be a servant to my guys and I do whatever I can for them and whatever I can do to win games,” Spencer said. “It's good that that's getting praised, I guess. It's an incredible honor and I'm going to keep working to make sure that it does happen.”

Spencer’s play against Alabama has put the unsung hero in the spotlight, but the Illinois native is not worried about that leading up to the inaugural College Football Playoff Championship Game vs. Oregon.

“I go out there and I bust my butt every time I can and I do what I can. I guess I'm glad people are noticing, but that's not my main focus,” Spencer said. “My main focus is not to make sure everybody else sees it, it's to make sure the job gets done. That job isn't going to be complete until Monday.”

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