ALLEN PARK -- When the Detroit Lions used a third round draft pick on Amari Spievey in 2010, they thought they were just getting a potential starting cornerback.
They were wrong.
Throughout the early portions of his first training camp, Spievey struggled. He was attempting to adjust to life in the NFL and the coaching staff wasn’t happy with his performance. Throw in a hip injury and Spievey was off to a rocky start.
The Lions finally decided to move him to safety, where – through hard work on the field, the film room as well as support from assistant coach Tim Walton, defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham and safety Louis Delmas – Spievey was able to win back the trust of the coaching staff.
This year he entered camp as a starter.
“You know, I pulled up the old depth charts,” said Cunningham. “Amari Spievey was listed as the fourth safety on the right side. Boy, he’s come a long way. He’s looking really good. He came in (to camp) in great shape, his communication skills are much higher than they were.”
Although having to change positions is not usually a desirable proposition for a player, it’s something Spievey was prepared to accept.
Growing up in Middletown Connecticut, Spievey attended Xavier High School, where he starred as a running back. He was named Connecticut Player of the Year in 2005 and left Xavier as the school’s all-time leading rusher, compiling 3,606 yards and 50 touchdowns.
Spievey was recruited to Iowa and was excited to take the next step towards his dream -- becoming an NFL running back. However, when he arrived at Iowa, Spievey discovered the coaching staff had different plans. He was moved to the defensive side of the ball.
“I was always the offensive guy growing up,” said Spievey. “Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, I wanted to be a running back so bad. So when I got switched in college, it kind of messed me up but I had to keep pushing and I succeeded. When I got here (Detroit), I went through the same thing but I was kind of prepared for it because I went through it in college.”
The move to the defensive side of the ball was difficult for Spievey, and his struggles were compounded by academic trouble. After redshirting his freshman year (2006) his academic issues forced him to enroll at Iowa Central Community College, where he spent all of the 2007 season.
Spievey dedicated himself to his school work and his craft, leading to junior college all-American honors in 2007.
One year later, he was back at Iowa. Spievey became a starting shutdown cornerback with the Hawkeyes en route to being selected with the second-pick in the third round of the 2010 draft.
Spievey's dealings with adversity helped grease the skids during his tumultuous rookie campaign. He worked hard, did what the team asked and – in only one season – the former high-school running back has made the transition to NFL starting safety.
“It has been a rollercoaster ride,” said Spievey. “A lot of ups and downs but I was always taught to keep pushing and, as a football player, you have to be ready to play any position the coaches need you to play. Especially in the NFL, you have to find any spot to succeed.”
When the Lions selected Spievey, they were hoping he could contribute to the team as a cornerback. Instead, he enters 2011 as one of the team’s starting safeties.
After a strong camp and preseason, he's still trying to comprehend the reality of it all.
“Luckily I’m starting, it’s crazy,” said Spievey, who paused for a moment and with a smile on his face continued. “I can’t even explain it. It’s like I’m dreaming right now.”
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