NASHVILLE, Tenn. —
“I’m having a hard time saying no to sweet tea right now,” Spencer said.
He doesn’t want to use artificial sweeteners either, so he’s just going with unsweet tea and water.
It’s a sacrifice, but one the native of Flora, Miss., has been making since joining the Titans as a free agent in April after two seasons with the Bears and six with the Seahawks, who drafted him at the 26th overall spot in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft.
Spencer said it’s been great to be about six hours from his hometown and about four hours from his college home of Ole Miss. Spencer played high school football at Madison Central, along with four other players (Mike Espy, Parys Haralson, Stephen Gostkowski and Doug Buckles) who also made it to the NFL.
“I knew we were pretty talented, but there’s so many variables that come into play about getting to the next level, so you just never know how far you’re going to get, but to have guys reach the next level was pretty cool. I still stay in contact with a lot of those guys, so it’s kind of cool to look back, especially when you’re in a locker room like this.”
After high school, Spencer’s next level was the SEC at the University of Mississippi, where he teamed with Eli Manning, and the Rebels won the Cotton Bowl after the 2003 season.
“I always wanted to stay close to home and I felt like if we kept a lot of our Mississippi talent in the state, we could have some pretty good teams, so I wanted to be one of the guys that stayed close to home,” Spencer said. “Most of us ended up going to Ole Miss, so it was a lot of fun.”
The prospect of taking his game even further, however, prompted Spencer to declare for the NFL Draft a year early after he received information that he would likely be selected in the latter part of the first round and a discussion with his family. He still vividly remembers the draft experience.
“I didn’t want any cameras because what if I ended up going undrafted,” Spencer recalled. (I told them) ‘We’ll have a party later on if I get drafted.’ Everybody was waiting by the phone to see if I got drafted to know if they should show up to the party or not. To have my name called at 26 to Seattle was a dream come true and one of those things that you never forget.”
The opportunity in Seattle proved to be great on the field, with the Seahawks going 13-3 in his rookie season and making it to Super Bowl XL. He said it was “kind of weird” to be on a team that went so far in his first pro season and a great learning experience.
|Chris Spencer spent his first six NFL seasons with Seattle and the past two with Chicago. The Mississippi native said he's glad to be back in the South after joining the Titans this offseason. |
Click here for a slideshow of Spencer's career.
“On that ride we had Shaun Alexander, Matt Hasselbeck, Steve Hutchinson, Walter Jones, Robbie Tobeck, Chris Gray, Sean Locklear, and it wasn’t a whole lot of big egos,” Spencer said. “Everybody just came and worked hard, and to see what that team did that year was pretty amazing. I would sit back when I got to the Super Bowl, and I think we had two guys on the team that had been there and lost, so they were always harping on, ‘Enjoy the moment because you never know if you’re going to get back there.’ Here I am, going to my ninth season and the closest I’ve come to going back is when we got to the second round of the playoffs.
“When you lose, you feel that sense of, ‘Ugh, you just couldn’t finish it,’ so the rest of your career, you’re just striving, trying to get back there and get back to it,” Spencer continued. “Hopefully I can bring some of that experience here and we can get there and get it done because it’s definitely something I want everybody to experience.”
Playing in Seattle was also convenient off the field because Spencer’s wife Katherine Jensen is from Vancouver, British Columbia. The pair met at Ole Miss where she played volleyball before transferring to Coastal Carolina to finish her collegiate career.
“She’s pretty good, probably the best talent in the house,” Spencer said. “I cannot hang with her. The things she can do with a volleyball are unbelievable. I’m trying to get the ball, and it’s coming straight at me, then all of a sudden it goes ‘voom’ with a little wiggle. I stay away from the court with her.”
On the gridiron, Spencer prefers center but has also played guard. He said the experience at guard increased his understanding of the game.
“You know the problems that people bring for your guards and you know more as a center how to balance those things,” Spencer said. “I definitely prefer center, but I’m here to do whatever they ask me to do.”
Spencer also said his desire to play for coach Mike Munchak and offensive line coach Bruce Matthews, who have 31 NFL seasons between them in their Hall of Fame playing careers, significantly impacted his decision on where to sign this spring.
The Titans brought in Spencer and
“Those guys played in the league for a long time,” Spencer said. “They understand the body, they understand players and they understand the game, so just to get that opportunity to come and play for guys like that, it was a no-brainer for me, and to get the opportunity to be back in the South, it was definitely a no-brainer.”
Matthews said Spencer has added an element to Tennessee’s offensive line as coaches determine the five best players that will be named starters and decide the players who will be on the roster when the season begins.
“He’s had success in the league with the high expectations of being a first-rounder, and you can see the athleticism,” Matthews said. “The Bears, I don’t think they offered him the option of playing center, because he really feels that’s his wheelhouse.
“We want the best five guys on the field,” Matthews added. “Obviously Chance Warmack is going to get a great opportunity because he’s the No. 10 pick in the draft, but that being said, the best five are going to play. I know that’s how Munch operates, that’s the way I operate, so it isn’t going to be any politics. They’ve taken us at our word here, so it’s going to be a good, old fashioned competition. They’re veteran guys. They’ve been around the league, Chris especially, if he’s the best guy at that position, then he’s going to be the guy we’ll roll out on Sunday.”