Football

Intense Spielman keeps campers moving

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Never mind that this was a youth football camp. It's still football, and Chris Spielman is not about to lose his intensity.

"Go, go, go! Don't stop! That's not running, that's almost running! Keep moving! There's no TV ... there's no cellphones ... there's no video games here! Just keep your body moving!"

The former Ohio State and NFL standout held his eighth Chris Spielman Football ProCamp for 300 first- through eighth-graders July 15 and 16 at Dublin Coffman High School. With his cap turned backward and bare feet shuffling across the artificial turf of Coffman Stadium, Spielman spent time with each of the 20 groups of campers.

"I take it seriously," he said. "I like to go around, see them red-faced and tired. That means they are getting something from this. For some, this is the best fitness they have had in a while. They need to keep moving."

Spielman's love for football is embedded in his DNA, being the son of high school coach Sonny Spielman. The elder Spielman was head coach at Canton Timken and also was an assistant at several programs, including Canton McKinley and Massillon Washington.

"I love high school football, but I don't get to go (to area games) as much as I would like because of my job," said Spielman, who is a college football analyst for ABC and ESPN. "Sometimes I'll be on the road on a Friday night and I'll see the lights (from a football stadium) and just head over and watch a game. It's a great thing."

In addition to football, what drives Spielman is raising money to fight breast cancer.

For a seventh season, the Spielman Gridiron Classic will showcase high school football and help raise funds for the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research and for athletics at the participating schools. Spielman's wife, Stefanie, died in 2009 after a lengthy battle with breast cancer.

The first Gridiron Classic was a single game Sept. 6, 2008, when host Gahanna lost to Cleveland Glenville 31-0. Since then, more than 100 schools have participated in the event, which has expanded to Indiana and West Virginia, according to Gridiron Classic board member Doug Lessells.

"The unique thing about the Spielman Gridiron Classic is that all funds raised by the participating schools are split evenly between the Stefanie (Spielman) Fund and the schools' booster clubs, so it's a win-win (scenario)," Lessells said. "The schools are raising funds for a great cause and helping themselves at the same time."

Another way Spielman gives back is through the Spielman ProCamp. A day after working with 280 campers in his hometown of Massillon, Spielman worked with kids for two days at Coffman.

"One thing we are proud of is that we are able to give (camp) scholarships to a lot of kids who might not be able to afford the ($129) camp fee," Spielman said. "It's great to be able to get those kids here and help them develop a love for the game, get them moving and learning to work together as a team."

Spielman graduated from Massillon Washington in 1984 and was an All-American linebacker at Ohio State before being drafted in the second round by the Detroit Lions in 1988. He played 10 NFL seasons, also spending time with the Buffalo Bills before retiring during the 1999 preseason as a member of the Cleveland Browns.

"I don't see myself as a (Massillon) Tiger, a Buckeye, a Lion or a Bill, or whatever," he said. "I see myself at different stages of my football career. They are all part of me. I only wish I could have played with the Browns, but was forced to retire because of a neck injury."

Spielman said he felt at home at the Massillon camp, pulling on a Massillon Washington Tigers T-shirt before taking the field. At Coffman, he donned the cap of one of his new teams -- the University of Toledo, where his son, Noah, an Upper Arlington graduate, will suit up this fall.

"Each year, it keeps getting bigger and better," ProCamps sales coordinator Leslie Pentecost said. "It packs a lot of coaching and fun in a fast-paced, two-day period."

And the camp is fast-paced. The campers were called to huddle up after a water break, but lollygagging was not on the agenda. Group No. 20 was the final pack to reach midfield. Its penalty was to sprint from midfield to the goal line and back.

"We want the kids to keep moving and make something happen," Spielman said. "They don't know what they are capable of doing unless they push themselves."

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