Reporters had a chance this morning to meet with Tim Spencer, OSU’s running backs coach who has accepted a similar position to work for former colleague Lovie Smith with the NFL’s Chicago Bears.
“It is a great opportunity to work for a good young man in Lovie, who worked with here in 1995,” Spencer said. “I think it’s a special situation for me. My wife (Gilda) is from Decatur, Ill., which is a couple of hours away, so she has two brothers and a sister up there. It gives us a chance to reconnect with the family. It’s a great organization that is committed to win. They’re talking about drafting a running back in the first round, so things couldn’t look better.”
Spencer said it was not an easy decision to walk away from his alma mater after 10 years on the staff.
“It’s extremely tough,” he said. “The relationships you create with the kids and the coaches are special. There are a lot of great people who have taught me a lot since I’ve been here. Hopefully, I’ve taught some of the young kids some things. It’s really hard. But even though I’m moving on, I will never leave. I will wear it on my heart.”
For Spencer, it will be a homecoming of sorts. He spent time during his pro career with the USFL team in Chicago.
“We were in the USFL at the time,” he said. “We had a core base of about 12,500 who really liked us. But it was quite clear that that was Bears territory. I remember a good time. People love their football up there. They are starving for a winner. I went to the (NFC) championship game when they won (the Super Bowl) in 1985 and the city just lit up over that. Hopefully, we can get back to that point and understand some of the traditions those guys had.”
Spencer talked about the transition of going from the college ranks to the pros.
“It’s going to be a different challenge,” he said. “But what appeals to me is I will be able to just go there and coach football. There won’t be any of this, `Did you go to class today?’ or any of that. You have to take care of your business when you’re there or you’re gone.
“It’s a great opportunity to work for a guy you know is a good guy and a good, solid citizen. He’s starting a new program. I’m getting in on the ground floor. That appealed to me. Lovie was the guy who made it real easy for me. He called once and said, `Hey, Tim, would you be interested?’ It was a message. I told my wife I kind of thought what it would be. There was a lot of nervousness. I finally got a chance to talk to him. He talked to Coach Tress and things worked out.
“I know the players are going to like Lovie because he’s such a class guy and they’re going to work for him. I’m going to work for him because he’s given me this opportunity. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Spencer said the move could help him down the line if he ever intends to become a coordinator or a head coach.
“I kind of figured if I wanted to move up in the coaching world, I was going to have to move,” he said. “This was just a great opportunity. You can never predict when an opportunity will be the one. As we studied it, we saw this as a good opportunity for me and my family.”
When asked about his favorite memories at Ohio State, Spencer recalled two in particular.
“It would have to be the national championship,” he said. “To me, that was the ultimate. I’ve been close in a lot of different arenas. When I was freshman here in 1979, if we beat USC (at the Rose Bowl) we were probably going to win it. We came close there. When I was in the USFL, we went to the championship game and lost 20-3 and were never really in it. But to win the national championship, that was awesome.
“Also, seeing Eddie walking across and get (the Heisman Trophy in 1995). We were up north (of Columbus) at a little establishment and when they announced his name, that was a great feeling because he was such a great young man. He had really worked his butt off and he really deserved it.”
Spencer said he plans to leave for Chicago this weekend and begin work there next week. With national signing day coming up next Wednesday, Spencer was confident OSU would bridge the gap with his recruits, including running backs Erik Haw, Dionte Johnson and Antonio Pittman.
“Coach Tressel and the staff, we do a really good job of being able to cross over and go to other guys,” he said. “A guy may be a defensive lineman or a defensive back, but we all get a chance to meet them. We’ve done a good job of that. I may be leaving and Coach Dantonio left, but since we do a good job of crossing over there won’t be any problems with the guys that we have (committed).”
The discussion eventually turned to the status of tailback Maurice Clarett, who is challenging the NFL in court to try and gain entry in this year’s draft. Spencer was asked what he felt Clarett should do.
“Obviously, I think he should go back to school and prove himself on a lot of different fronts,” Spencer said. “I think that’s the best thing for him. What he’ll do, I don’t know. But I wish him the best.”
Although Clarett was cleared to rejoin the Buckeyes for winter conditioning, it was revealed Wednesday that he is not participating in those workouts.
“I don’t know anything about that and it’s not my place to talk about that because there is probably a lot more to it than just that,” Spencer said. “We really don’t know everything. We can’t pass judgement on that.
“I’ve talked to him probably three out of the last four days. We’ve talked a lot. A lot of people want to bring back up (what happened at) Northwestern, but you know sometimes when you have disagreements with friends or whoever you end up being a lot closer than maybe you were in the first part. I think that’s the situation. I feel like I can talk to him and I think he feels he can come and ask me a question and get an honest answer because I give it to him straight.”
When asked if he would recommend Clarett to the Bears brass, Spencer said, “Those guys, I’m sure, will do their own homework. I know they will have a good feel for who they want to get. I’ll just be evaluating.”