Chris Spencer

Former Rebel C/OL Chris Spencer, now with the Seattle Seahawks of the NFL, was the featured speaker at the Ladies Football Forum yesterday. Big Chris hasn't changed any in his year in the pro ranks - he's still, as he said, "just a Mississippi boy." Read about it inside.

When you think of most offensive linemen, your first thoughts are of someone who is physically very big.

That's not the case with former Rebel C/OL Chris Spencer, even though he's a large human being at 6-3 and 305 pounds.

With Spencer, a first-round draft pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 2005, your first impression is his smile and sense of humor.

Spencer has never met a stranger and is as outgoing and amiable as anyone you will ever know.

So it was no surprise yesterday when Chris, the featured speaker of the Ladies Football Forum, strolled into the IPF and all you could see was his huge, bright smile.

"I'm so happy to be back where I call home," Chris said. "I have nothing but great memories about Ole Miss and my time here.

He was greeted accordingly by the 200-plus Lady Rebels in attendance.

"When Chyna (Ward) called me and asked me to speak to the women's forum here, I said I've got to do that," he joked to the crowd. "As charming and good-looking as I am, this is a natural."

Spencer's talk was chock full of typical, well, Spencer humor. He's a guy who likes to smile and likes to be in an environment where humor and smiling are dominant.

The first thing he did when he took the stage was lead a rousing "Hotty Toddy."

"I've missed that in Seattle," he said. "I've missed a lot of things about Ole Miss, a place that is dear to me."

Spencer recapped his college career with some self-effacing tales.

"My first day at Ole Miss as a true freshman, I thought I was going to come right in and take over. I was coming off a state championship high school team and was the powerlifting champion of Mississippi in high school," he said. "I thought I would ease into everything and be fine. The first day of summer workouts we lifted hard. I got through that OK, then the coaches said we were going outside for some 110-yard sprints. I threw up after the fourth one as the pace got faster and faster.

"I called my Mom that night and told her I didn't think college football was for me and to please come get me. My Mom - the most influential person in my life - told me to stick it out a few more days and if things didn't get better she would be here. She knew what she was doing - things got better."

That year, once he settled in, Chris felt he would be on the field and would pass up a redshirt season. He was told by the coaching staff he needed a redshirt.

"Pride got in the way when I was told of that decision. I wasn't very happy with it. Then I went to the Ole Miss-Auburn game and saw these huge defensive linemen dancing around and stalking Eli (Manning) on their DL and immediately said to myself that a redshirt was best for me. I don't think I could have protected Eli at that time in my career," he smiled.

From there, you know the rest of his story at Ole Miss - a three-year starter, essentially, All-SEC, etc.

"It was a great time in my life. I am so appreciative of having the opportunity to play at Ole Miss and to get to know a lot of wonderful people who influenced my life in the right way," Spencer added.

Chris said his decision to leave Ole Miss a year before his eligibility had expired was a "tough one."

"I shed a lot of tears in making that decision, but it was best for me," he lamented. "I knew I needed to move on, but it was one of the hardest things I've had to do. When something means as much to you as Ole Miss and this team does to me, it's not easy."

On draft day, he said he refused TV cameras and media being in his home while he watched the draft.

"I didn't want to be one of those guys you see every year who starts out all happy and everyone is partying and by the sixth round everyone is gone and you're sitting on the couch unpicked and looking like you are going to a funeral," he continued.

When the 24th pick in the first round that belonged to Seattle came around, he said he didn't give it much thought.

"NFL teams play poker in the draft. They don't tip their hands much beyond the first four or five picks," he explained. "I had not had a lot of contact with Seattle. I didn't even know if they knew about me much.

Then the phone rang.

"It was my brother in the back bedroom. My heart sank," he recalled. "About two minutes lates (Seattle Head Coach) Mike Holmgren called. He asked if I was ready to come to Seattle and play some football. I told him I didn't want to sound dumb, but exactly where is Seattle?"

When Chris reported to Seattle, he said he was surprised to learn Holmgren is one of the NFL coaches who does not allow rookie hazing. He was expecting the worst.

"He doesn't let the vets haze tookies, they do it differently. They hit you in the pocket book," he laughed. "The veteran offensive linemen came to me one day and said 'Rook, get an American Express card and pay $15,000 into it in advance. You are taking us to Las Vegas.' I thought they were kidding, but they weren't. That was my hazing."

Even though Chris didn't get a lot of playing time his first year - he is the center of the future for the Seahawks, but they have an 11-year veteran starter there now, his rookie season was a fairy tale. The Seahawks, as you know, went to the Super Bowl last season.

"Going to the Super Bowl was an unreal experience. It is a media circus, but my first Super Bowl interview was strange. I thought the writer was going to sit down and talk to me about my progress as a rookie, talk about the game. He asked me if I had a dog. I said no. Then he asked me if I had a cat. I said no. End of interview," Spencer said, looking around in amazement. "I said to myself, 'did that just happen? Did this guy just ask me about dogs and cats at the Super Bowl?' Weird."

On the night before the Super Bowl, Chris said Holmgren approached the team and warned them to get plenty of sleep and not get tired from adrenaline rushes before kickoff.

"What did I do? I didn't sleep a wink the night before and I jogged and loosened up too much before kickoff. I was tired all day," he laughed.

Chris said his future at Seattle looks as bright as his days at Ole Miss were.

"I'm in a good position to have a long, successful career as the center for the Seattle Seahawks," he summarized his position. "But I can tell all of you I will never replace Ole Miss. I will never forget Ole Miss. I will always come back to Ole Miss."

And he said it with his patented smile.

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