Spielman's Classic Returns For Second Year

Chris Spielman is a man with a lot on his plate. With all the issues facing the former Ohio State linebacker, Spielman has managed to keep his focus on improving the world around him through the game of football. Take a look at the second annual Spielman Gridiron Classic, featuring the Cleveland Glenville Tarblooders.

For the second straight season, Ted Ginn Sr. will bring his Cleveland Glenville Tarblooders to Columbus for a non-conference football game.

For that, fans of high school sports have both former Ohio State linebacker Chris Spielman and one of the largest faith-based organizations in the country to thank. After playing in the inaugural Chris Spielman's Gridiron Classic last season, the Tarblooders are again one of four teams to take part in the event that raises money for both cancer research and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

At a press conference in northern Columbus, Spielman also alluded to another factor that might get natives of the state's capital city interested in supporting his event.

"Coach Ginn does a great job with that program and obviously it creates interest because he produces Buckeyes, it seems like," Spielman said. "It gives people of central Ohio the chance to see a program like that and what he does and how he does it and maybe some future Buckeyes."

The 2009 OSU roster features seven former Tarblooders. Last season, Glenville faced off against host Gahanna-Lincoln in the classic. This year, it will play Reynoldsburg on Sept. 5, one night after Hilliard Darby will face Dublin Jerome.

"It's an honor to be playing in the game for the second time," Ginn said. "The cause to this game means more to us than any game. Any time that you can help an organization like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which helps hold our program together, is huge for us, and to be a part of something to raise money for cancer research (is big)."

A perennial state powerhouse that often sends its top players to OSU, Glenville's pairing with Reynoldsburg led head coach Steve Evans to joke that he reconsidered taking part in this year's event after talking to his school's athletic director.

"Two days later he says, ‘Hey, I forgot to tell you, we're going to play Glenville,' " Evans said. "I said, ‘Well, is there anyone else we could get?' "

Bob Hendrix, a Columbus-area attorney who also serves as the chairman for the event, said the goal is for the classic to expand to a state-wide format within the next two years. Money raised will go to benefit the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research in addition to the FCA. In all, Spielman said, nearly $6 million has been raised for the Stefanie Spielman fund since its inception, all of which has gone exclusively to research.

In an emotional speech, Spielman said his wife – a cancer survivor – has again been battling cancer for the last six months and described the latest round as a "major battle.

"We got back from the Buckeye Cruise for Cancer and found out that she has 40 brain mets on the brain," he said. "She's had cancer in her spinal fluid and on her spinal column. It's been a very painful and challenging six months.

"I don't know what tomorrow is going to bring, but I do know that the money the Stefanie Spielman fund generates is not only for her but being the team players that (we are), it benefits maybe my three daughters and maybe your daughters down the line."

Spielman's speech left an impression on Christian Bryant, a four-star cornerback prospect from Glenville who as in attendance.

"That's heartbreaking to hear what his wife is going through and what his family is trying to overcome," Bryant said. "My heart goes out to him and his family. I hope they overcome every problem that they have in their lives. What he said was pretty powerful because this whole organization is a big team and it's for the right team."

In addition to his duties as head football coach, Ginn prides himself as being a mentor to his players and other kids within the east Cleveland community. In the past, he has taken in players such as Troy Smith and Jamario O'Neal and helped them eventually earn college scholarships.

Ginn said that the morals the FCA espouses are identical to the ones he preaches within his own program on a daily basis.

"That's what the program is about: giving back," Ginn said. "I always tell the kids that you need to be able to put your name on something when you're in high school. It's an opportunity for the kids to be able to say they played in a game that was meaningful. FCA, that's the glue that holds our program together. That's huge for us, so we pretty much understand the whole purpose."

It's a sentiment Spielman said he agrees with.

"It is the most important part of my life," he said. "My faith supersedes my love for my wife, my faith supersedes my love for my children. The more that my faith supersedes that, the more love that I have for my wife and the love I have for my children. I will continue to use FCA to build a foundation of truth in our children.

"I have four kids and two jobs and this, so I don't really need a lot of help staying busy. I do this because I'm passionate about high school football and I'm passionate about FCA and passionate about raising money for cancer. That's why I do it."


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