You just have to battle. Every time you practice or work-out you have to battle.
University of Nebraska Football
Walk-on Offensive Line
2011: Starting Right Guard
2010: Did not play in a game
2009: Walk-on Redshirt
Spencer had smaller colleges interested in him when he graduated from Elkhorn High School. But he didn’t have any division one scholarship offers. Nebraska invited him to walk-on. So he made a last minute decision to become a Cornhusker.
WillofaChampion: What has been one of your greatest challenges as a walk-on?
Spencer: Really the same challenges as anyone else who plays, you’re just not getting paid to play. Your goal is to get a starting spot and earn a scholarship. You just have to keep working for that goal. You want to become a better player and overcome people’s lower expectations from being a walk-on.
WillofaChampion: Why do you think you were not offered a scholarship coming out of high school?
Spencer: I developed late which might be part of the reason I didn’t get a scholarship offer.
Elkhorn (High School) has a strong football program. I didn’t get to start a game until I was a junior. Since I started later in my career colleges may not have noticed me.
WillofaChampion: Did you have to spend extra time working out and practicing compared to other players?
Spencer: Nope. You just have to battle. Every time you practice or work-out you have to battle. You’re doing the same thing everyone else is; you’re just a walk-on instead of a scholarship guy. You just work hard at the things you’re expected and told to do. You give it 100% all the time.
WillofaChampion: Was Nebraska your dream school?
Spencer: I decided that if I was going to play football I was going for the highest offer. You get one shot, one opportunity; you want to take everything you can get. I knew that down the road I would regret it if I didn’t try. The tradition here is great. We had season tickets when I was younger. The chance to come and play for a team like this is a once in a life time opportunity. It is up to you whether you want to do it or not, and I decided I wanted to. My brother is also a walk-on Tight End.
WillofaChampion: Do you have to be more mentally tough as a walk-on?
Spencer: Everyone has to be mentally tough or you won’t make it. As a walk-on you don’t get as many benefits. You put in all this work hoping to play and hoping that maybe you will get a scholarship. Everyone else is getting their school paid for when they first come. So you do need a sense of delayed gratification and a never quit attitude. I think everyone has that mentality to some degree.
WillofaChampion: How did your coaches and teammates receive you compared to other players?
Spencer: You start out like everyone else – scout team. I didn’t know what to expect when I came. But everyone practices, everyone gets to hit, you just got to fight to make your mark. I was not treated differently than anyone else.
WillofaChampion: Why do you think you’ve made it when other walk-ons do not?
Spencer: I don’t know. But I do think projecting how good a player will be out of high school is tough and at times inaccurate. Once a player gets to college it is a new system and level of competition. You can tell talent in high school, but it is a different story once you get to this level. High School is over. High School is all about getting here. Once you’re here you have to work to get recognized.
WillofaChampion: When you go through challenging times who do you talk to for encouragement?
Spencer: My brother is here. We go through a lot together. We talk. My family is here too. So are other walk-ons. Basically whoever is available.
WillofaChampion: What impact has following your dream and earning it up to this point had on the rest of your life?
Spencer: I have learned a lot from being here. About toughness, competing, dealing with stress, time management, I’ve become a whole other person. I’ve changed a lot. My personality is the same, I am still who I was. But I’ve become stronger and learned a lot from being here. The lessons I’ve learned in football apply to other areas of my life as well.
WillofaChampion: What advice do you have for other athletes considering walking-on?
Spencer: Every opportunity you get you have to take it. You don’t get many chances. If you don’t take advantage of your opportunities you’re not going to make it. You can’t take off even a second. You have to give it your all every day every second. If you only get one shot and blow it you may not get another chance. So take advantage of every opportunity.
Spencer was named to the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll every semester of his career with a cumulative gpa of 3.79. He is majoring in Biological Sciences.