[Editor’s Note: From now until Big Ten Media Days, we’ll be reaching into The-Ozone’s 23 years worth of archives and each day we will be posting a story from yesteryear. Big moments, small moments, big games, bigger games, and the random recruiting updates about guys you haven’t thought about in a decade or two.]
January 8, 2015 | A few days after Ohio State pummeled Alabama in the first round of the College Football Playoffs in 2014, the Buckeyes met up with reporters back in Columbus. One of the players who spoke with the media was senior receiver Evan Spencer, who put on a performance for the ages against the Crimson Tide. For a game where he only caught one pass for seven yards, Spencer’s signature was on every wall of this game, scrawled like graffiti, yet with perfect penmanship. In this piece by Tony Gerdeman, Spencer talked about being overlooked and what was actually important to him, such as the desire to be an example for the freshmen receivers on the team. It is no surprise that the three freshman receivers on that team — Parris Campbell, Johnnie Dixon, and Terry McLaurin — all went on to become captains at Ohio State. — TG
It’s not often that a team MVP is overshadowed quite the way that receiver Evan Spencer has seemingly been this season, but that’s nothing new for the senior from Chicago.
Touted as the best blocking receiver that Urban Meyer has ever had, Spencer has been known as the guy who will do whatever he is asked, while never asking for anything in return.
Despite being the only skill player on the team to start all 14 games this season for the Buckeyes, Spencer is just ninth on the team in receptions. His numbers, however, only tell a fraction of his importance to the team.
That importance was put on full display for the nation to witness in the Sugar Bowl last week, and what a performance they saw. Precision blocking — including one that would take out two defenders en route to an 85-yard game-winning touchdown run; an unbelievable one-handed catch that was questionably called incomplete; an absolutely perfect touchdown pass that turned the game completely around; a game-saving snatch of an onside kick in traffic; and every other little or big thing that his coaches asked him to do.
And remember the deep pass on first down on Ohio State’s last drive when they were supposed to be killing the clock? That play was entrusted to Evan Spencer as well.
On Tuesday, Urban Meyer termed Spencer’s performance in that game as “unbelievable.”
“He’s the MVP,” Meyer said. “He’s the MVP of our team. He’s the leader of our team. He’s the guy that at the right time, I’ll probably make an executive decision and make him a captain. He’s a wonderful kid. He’s really what, to me, football is all about.”
That performance in the Sugar Bowl was one for the ages, yet it included just one reception for Spencer. That’s Spencer, though. So much more than just a pass catcher, he is an example for every current and future Buckeye to follow because “little things” lead to big results.
“At the end of the day, my personal gratification is determined by what we do as a team,” Spencer said. “That’s my team attitude that I have and my selfless attitude that I try to show every day in practice and every day on the field. That bodes well on all the young guys and all the guys my age. You come out in practice and see somebody going to work every day, you go, ‘I can do this, too.’
“This season I tried to go out and go to work. Do what you do well and do it every day in practice and bring people with you. Coach Meyer noticed I was doing things like that really well and that’s maybe what prompted him to say the things he has.”
“Bringing people with him” was something that Meyer used to say about former Buckeye John Simon as well. Lead by example and show the younger players how things are supposed to be done as Buckeyes. It is that kind of attitude and execution which makes a great captain, and it’s no surprise that Meyer plans to make that happen in the near future for Spencer.
Even though Spencer has long been a leader for the Buckeyes, being a captain would be something that would mean the world to him.
“It means everything,” he said of the possibility. “The captains of the teams are the guys who are remembered forever. The captains of a team that gets to go to a national championship, those guys have their names kind of written in stone. That would mean the world to me.
“Every time I come out here I try to lead, I try to do everything I can for myself. I try to put on a good example for all the younger guys, the guys like Johnnie Dixon and Terry (McLaurin) who all they really can do is watch and all they can watch is how to work, so then next year it’s building a culture that needs to be continued and will keep our room at the level it needs to be. Like Coach Schlegel always says, I try to be a servant to my guys and I do whatever I can for them and whatever I can to win games. It’s an incredible honor and I’m going to keep working to make sure that it does happen.”
His teammates take notice of those things every single day and they have absolutely no problem with their head coach labeling him as the MVP.
“Because he really is the MVP,” said linebacker Joshua Perry. “You turn on the film and he doesn’t get targeted a ton, doesn’t have the most touchdowns on the team, most receptions, most yards or whatever. (But makes) great special teams plays, clutch plays when we need them, great leadership, selfless player. When you have a guy as talented as him who does all those things even though he’s not getting the stats that he wants, that’s why he’s the MVP.”
Through his selfless play, Spencer is setting the example of how to win for the players next year who will be asked to step up and become the new leaders. These are his final opportunities to pay it forward to his teammates, and it makes him want to do it even more.
“That’s the characteristic of somebody who is that type of person, who develops that type of work ethic,” he explained. “It’s a constant drive for success, a constant drive for your team success and a constant drive to make people better. That’s what I try to focus on and put my nose to the grindstone and do. If somebody’s hurt, I go up and make sure they’re all right. If they mess up a play, I make sure they’re doing things right. I want to make sure that as a team we’re executing and we’re getting better. I try to go out and do that every day.”
And by doing that every day, in the eyes of his coaches, it would be impossible for anybody to overshadow what Evan Spencer has done as a Buckeye.