Laurinaitis' choice to return to Columbus meant the Bellbrook, Ohio, native would remain in the shadows of the Butkas Award winner.
"At first I was thinking, ‘Oh crap, another year of (being a backup),' " Spitler said. "But if you go into the next season and you're down and you have the wrong mindset the whole is going to be bad. You've got to go in with the right mindset. Be positive, work harder than you've ever worked."
Hard work hasn't been a problem for the redshirt junior. Spitler, an all-state first team member with the Golden Eagles, began his OSU career as a special teams player in 2005 and has seen his role grow in recent years. Last season the 6-3, 234-pound middle linebacker started on four special teams units and saw his playing time at linebacker also increase. Spitler recorded 26 tackles last season with one sack and saw more than 10 minutes of playing time in a game twice.
Laurinaitis said Spitler is a more than capable backup.
"He's a phenomenal player," Laurinaitis said. "If he's anywhere else, he's starting right now. He's had a great camp, too. We've got to find ways to get him on the field as well.
"I love working out with the kid. He pushes me and we push each other. He's extremely competitive."
That competitive nature both Spitler and Laurinaitis share is one reason Spitler was not upset that Laurinaitis returned.
"It's hard for people outside to understand, but I believe it really will help both of us in the long run," Spitler said. "We work hard together and push each other everyday in the weight room and on the field. I believe that is the kind of thing that makes us better."
Nonetheless, Laurinaitis said he knows it has to be difficult for Spitler to wait for his opportunity.
"I think anybody that's here would have a tough time with it," Laurinaitis said. "If you're truly competitive, you want to be out there. Anyone's going to have a tough time with it. They might not say it, but I think if you truly want to be on the field all the time and contributing, it's going to nag at you a little bit."
Even though his chance to start will probably not come until next season, Spitler said he will work to be ready whenever his opportunity comes.
"I've definitely come a long way since I got here, but there's always a lot of room for improvement," Spitler said. "That's why we practice, working as hard as we can. We can't let a day slide away and take a step back. Just take steps forward and that's what we stride for."
The season opener vs. Youngstown State could be a chance for Spitler to show how far he has come. Spitler saw ample playing time and had a career high in several categories against the Penguins in 2007.
Spitler said it will be important to get the '08 season off to a good start.
"We all want to set the tone right away and I do too," Spitler said. "It's the first game and we all want to have a great game right off the bat. It's going to be a big game. We'll all get the jitters out and it should be fun."