In the first practice of his pro career, Spielman tackled the ball-carrier with a vengeance, leaped up, and yelled “Let’s go, right now!” His coach pulled him aside and told him to relax. Spielman didn’t understand. He approached every practice and every film session and every walk-through and every scrimmage and every game with the same white-hot fury, energy, and rage. He had a burning desire to excel, and he only had one gear: accelerator mashed to the floor at maximum throttle.
Teammates and coaches often advised him to “take it easy” during practices. Spielman always looked at them, confused. He could not fathom anything other than all-out intensity, all the time. Anything less than full effort was a disgrace to the game and a violation of honor. Spielman was a harsh judge of self, and he held other players accountable to the same high standard.
Before a college game pitting his Ohio State Buckeyes against the LSU Tigers, Spielman got into a ferocious fracas with the opposing captain, Eric Andolsek. Later, the two fierce combatants played together on the Lions. People who knew about their history of animosity were shocked when the two became best friends. But Spielman described his former adversary as a kindred spirit and one of a handful of teammates who approached the game with equal dedication and desire.
Several times during his pro career, in the midst of a team losing streak, teammates requested a players-only meeting. The purpose was to elicit greater effort and greater devotion from each player, to light a proverbial fire of enthusiasm within. Spielman always refused to attend any such meetings. He was insulted by the insinuation that someone might require a special pep talk or additional, motivational exhortation in order to prepare and perform at his maximum. If they didn’t care enough before the losing streak, why should they care any more now?
His maximum. Every play, every day, in everything. That’s the only way to play football, and the only way to approach life.
From August 2010, http://raising-a-man.tumblr.com