All-Time Greatest – No. 42: Tim Spencer

BuckeyeSports.com counts down the days until Ohio State's 2008 season opener with its list of the 50 greatest Buckeyes of all-time. The series continues today with No. 42: fullback-turned-tailback Tim Spencer.

Rare is the type of running back who can excel at both the fullback and tailback position at Ohio State. Then again, Tim Spencer was a rare talent.

Born Dec. 10, 1960, in Martins Ferry, Ohio, Spencer was a prep All-America running back out of St. Clairsville (Ohio) High School. A rare blend of speed and power, he ran for 3,144 yards and 49 touchdowns during his high school career for the Red Devils.

It was that speed and power combination that first earned Spencer playing time for the Buckeyes. After seeing limited duty as a freshman in 1979, he proved himself much too valuable to stay on the bench as a sophomore.

Originally a tailback, Spencer was blocked at the position by returning starter Calvin Murray. So Spencer did the only he could do to ensure himself of playing time – he volunteered to block for Murray as fullback.

As a result, Spencer cracked the starting lineup as a sophomore and paved the way for Murray to gain 1,267 yards in 1980, then the fourth-best single-season total in school history. When Murray graduated after that season, Spencer got his chance to "dot the I" in Woody Hayes' classic power-I formation.

The results were incredible. Spencer led the team in rushing as both a junior and season, totaling 1,217 yards in '81 and then exploding for 1,538 yards the following year. As a senior, he set a new school record with 273 carries and earned his second straight first-team All-Big Ten honor.

By the time he had played his final game for the Buckeyes, Spencer was second only to Archie Griffin in career rushing yardage with 3,553 yards on 644 attempts, an average of 5.5 yards per carry.

More than 25 years after his final game at OSU, Spencer still ranks third all-time in rushing yardage, trailing only Heisman Trophy winners Griffin (5,589, 1972-75) and Eddie George (3,768, 1992-95).

Spencer was a complete running back, excelling at blocking, pass protection, running and catching the ball. He finished his OSU career with 40 receptions for 370 yards and one TD.

After leaving the Buckeyes, Spencer was an 11th-round selection by San Diego in the 1983 NFL draft, but he opted to play in the upstart USFL and signed with the Chicago Blitz, who made him the second overall player chosen in their draft. He played for Hall of Fame coach George Allen who led the team to an 12-6 record and a playoff berth. Spencer was the fourth-leading rusher in the league as a rookie with 1,157 yards and six TDs.

The following season, with the fortunes of the Blitz and the entire league hanging by a thread, Spencer signed with the Arizona Wranglers and had another banner season. He was fifth among USFL rushers in '84 with 1,212 yards and 17 TDs. The Wranglers went 10-8 that season and lost to Philadelphia in the league's championship game.

In 1985, Spencer spent his third and final USFL season with his third different team. He led the Memphis Showboats with 789 yards and the team finished 11-7 before losing in the semifinals of the playoffs.

When the USFL folded following the 1985 season, Spencer returned to San Diego to play for the Chargers. In six seasons there, he was a dependable all-purpose back, rushing for 1,792 yards and 19 TDs while catching 53 passes for 432 yards in 78 total games.

In 1993, Spencer returned to Ohio State to complete his degree requirements and, one year later, joined John Cooper's coaching staff as running backs coach. He spent 10 seasons in that capacity, serving first under Cooper and then under Jim Tressel before accepting a similar position on Lovie Smith's staff with the Chicago Bears in January 2004. During his decade-long service with the Buckeyes, five different running backs achieved 1,000-yard seasons and Eddie George won the 1995 Heisman Trophy.

In his four seasons since joining the Bears, Spencer coached Thomas Jones to back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2005 and '06.

Yesterday: No. 43 Cornelius Greene

Tomorrow: No. 41


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