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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- In 2002, a 10-year-old Evan Spencer stood on the Ohio State sidelines and witnessed the Buckeyes' march to a 14-0 record and a national championship. A decade later, Spencer is enjoying another Ohio State undefeated season, but this time, he's doing it on the field.
The son of former OSU running back and assistant coach Tim Spencer, Evan got a first-hand look at what it takes to go undefeated in college football. He may not have known it at the time, but the experience was helping to prepare him for his own career, where he is now a receiver for the 9-0 Buckeyes.
"I've been around Buckeyes my whole life," the younger Spencer said. "My best memory I'd say is the national championship, being able to be out on the field with my dad, my mom, and my brother and after the game. To this day, I still get chills thinking about it."
It wasn't just one season, but a childhood of growing up around a football coach and former player that helped turn Spencer into an emerging player on this year's OSU team. Despite moving to Chicago in high school when Tim took a job with the Chicago Bears, Evan returned to Columbus in 2011 after choosing to follow in his father's footsteps and play for the Buckeyes.
"When it came down to it, it was an easy decision. This is home for me," Spencer said. "It wasn't really a transition at all."
There may not have been a struggle for Spencer in moving back home to Columbus, but on the field was a different story. Despite making perhaps the catch of the season in the Buckeyes' season-opening win over Akron in 2011, Spencer only managed to record three total catches and 78 yards in his freshman season.
Spencer's lack of production and minor injuries in the spring paved the way for him to open up his sophomore season- his first under new OSU coach Urban Meyer- as a backup behind fellow wideouts Devin Smith, Corey Brown, and Jake Stoneburner.
"It really bummed me out, but my family was there for me and some of my good friends on the team that were also there for me," Spencer said. "I got through half of spring ball, so at least I kind of showed them what I could do. Then I told them that I myself that when it comes to camp time, just buckle down, and give it everything you've got."
The sort of mindset that one would expect from a coach's son has paid dividends of Spencer throughout his sophomore season. Although he's still not a starter, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound wideout has earned more playing time as the year has progressed, recording 10 catches for 118 yards with three games left in the season.
Five of those catches have come in the past two weeks, where Spencer has become a reliable possession threat for the OSU offense and quarterback Braxton Miller.
"I'm just busting butt," Spencer said. "I made it a point, especially this year, just to bust my butt as much as I can and do everything I can, watch extra film if I have to, do whatever it is necessary to better myself."
Ohio State wide receivers coach Zach Smith has been impressed by the strides that Spencer has made lately, but said that it's only increased what was already a high opinion that he held of the Vernon Hills high school product.
"He's gotten better every week but he was never a guy I didn't count on," Smith said. "He has probably just improved his value in the program and how we feel about confidence in him. So now he's a guy that I say, 'I know he'll make the play, I know he'll run a great route, I know he'll get open and he will catch the football.'"
Spencer admitted that his father has still played a key role in his development, and that he even with each of their busy schedules, they've found ways to talk almost every day this season. And although Tim is still helping coach at least one Buckeye player on this year's roster, he's not the only one doing the evaluating when the father and son speak nowadays.
"After he gives me criticisms on my games, I watch the Bears games and give him criticisms on what they did wrong," Evan said laughing. "It's a two-way street."
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