Spielman Salutes Wife At HOF Induction

Chris Spielman's induction today into the College Football Hall of Fame is the latest step on his journey after the November death of wife Stefanie from a well-publicized battle with cancer. The former OSU linebacker talked about what the Hall of Fame honor meant to her among other subjects in New York City at ceremonies held for the honorees.

The rubber chicken circuit for those chosen for inclusion in the College Football Hall of Fame lasts about than a year.

For former Ohio State linebacker Chris Spielman, however, that time frame has taken on a particular meaning with the Nov. 19 passing of wife Stefanie after a long-term battle with cancer.

Speaking at a press conference before his induction into the Hall of Fame today at the National Football Foundation's annual awards dinner in New York City, Spielman spoke of what the individual honor meant to his wife, a noted and beloved public figure because of her fight and her and her husband's fundraising efforts.

"My wife always looked down on individual awards," Chris said. "Whether it was an All-America award or the Lombardi Trophy, she was just like, 'Yeah, whatever.' Even to the point I was in the top 250 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame one year and I printed it out and put it on the refrigerator, I said, "Hey, come look at this.' And she looked at it and she read it and said, 'That's great, can you get it off the kids' artwork?'

"But this was different. When I shared this with her there was such a genuine smile on her face and pure joy that she got out of this. She understood where my passion and what my passion for college football is. It's amazing. I have no doubt that she's smiling down on us today and I take great solace and joy in that.

"In football, nothing can be accomplished without people, and God gave me some ability and blessed us through that, and I'm humbled and I'm honored. And more importantly, I was able to give my wife a genuine joy through football. It was maybe the first time she ever had it, but she got it, so thank you."

Spielman also discussed his father, Sonny, a longtime high school coach who helped create a love of football in both Chris and his brother Rick, the vice president of player personnel for the Minnesota Vikings. The elder Spielman died last year after working at a number of schools in Ohio and Florida.

"I lost my father last year in October and he was a high school football coach and that's where my passion for the game comes from," Chris said. "I know today he's smiling because this is up his alley. I know he would absolutely love it."

In between his tough years, Spielman was chosen for selection into the Hall of Fame, the highest honor he's received throughout a decorated life in football.

Upon arrival at OSU from Massillon, Ohio, the linebacker forced himself into the starting lineup as a freshman for a Buckeye team that reached the Rose Bowl. By the time his career at Ohio State was completed, Spielman was third on the Buckeyes' career tackles list with 546 to go with eight sacks, 30 tackles for loss and 11 interceptions. As a junior in 1986, Spielman made 205 stops, including a school-record tying 29 against Michigan.

Because of those stats, he earned the 1987 Lombardi Award as the nation's best lineman. That season, he earned his second consecutive first-team All-America honor and third first-team All-Big Ten choice, honors that padded his Hall of Fame résumé.

His choice was first announced during the early summer, and he was honored at Ohio State in September at halftime of the football game with Navy. He finally will be enshrined into the Hall of Fame during the summer.

"I'd like to thank the National Football Foundation for this week, it's just been amazing," Spielman said. "I'd echo the thoughts of everybody here that certainly every guy would tell you that in football you're only as good as the people around you, and you can accomplish nothing by yourself. That's why it's the greatest game in the world. For me, it meant to get text messages from my ex-teammates and the joy that they get out of my honor which is humbling to no end."

He currently works as a television analyst for ESPN and as local radio commentator in Columbus, where he continues to live with his four children.

When asked at the dais today what he sees while watching college football as part of those jobs, Spielman started with a humorous response.

"I see poor tackling today," he said, drawing laughs. "I'm sorry, did I say that out loud?"

He then turned serious, pontificating about his days at Ohio State.

"I see the same emotion and the same passion from when we played. There's something to be said about playing for your university. To me, that is so honorable when you do that. For example, I had the privilege of playing at The Ohio State University, and that responsibility meant that you not only played for your university and your teammates and your coaches, but you played for your state. Everybody in Ohio is an Ohio State fan.

"To me, that was something that I embraced and went after, and I see that in kids today. They play hard and they play for the love of the game. I can honestly say traveling around the country, I see the same passion and the same love of the game that I had and all these men had up here."

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