Tim Spencer

“Coach Allen is tops – a man of integrity,” Spencer said, in a reflective voice. “He took care of his players. He knew what to say, and how to motivate players.  He handpicked all the people on the team. Everybody on the Blitz had something in common that coach Allen saw in each of one us.”

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Tim Spencer - Blitz, Wranglers, Showboats

Ohio State is a football factory for players headed to the NFL, but running back Tim Spencer went to the USFL because George Allen and the Chicago Blitz made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. 

 

“I felt comfortable with coach Allen, I knew a little about his history,”

Spencer  said from Halas Hall in Chicago in 2006, where he was the

running backs coach for the Chicago Bears.  “I knew where I would go in

the NFL, and the money I was going to get from the USFL was better

and guaranteed. It was a no-brainer.”

 

While Pittsburgh quarterback Dan Marino was the first player selected in

the USFL, Spencer became the first player to sign with the new league. 

 

“They [USFL] were trying to get something started, so they had to make it more enticing for players like me out of college,” Spencer said, as he reflects back almost 24 years ago.

 

Allen sent a scout to talk to Spencer at his bowl game in San Diego before the 1983 USFL January college draft.  

 

“Coach Allen wanted me in Chicago the next day,”  Spencer recalls, with a laugh in his voice.  “I told the scout I had to talk things over with my dad first.”  

 

Spencer flew to Chicago three days later to meet with the legend himself – George Allen. Coach Allen was more than just the coach of the new league, he was the USFL’s diplomat, ambassador and cheerleader. 

Spencer joined Allen’s team that was filled with former NFL players: Doug Plank, Dan Jiggetts, Kevin Long, Greg Landry, Joe Ehrmann, Stan White, Bobby Scott and more. 

Although Allen implemented his “future is now” mentality on the Blitz, he looked to the rookie out of Ohio State to be the number one back.

 

“Coach Allen is tops – a man of integrity,” Spencer said, in a reflective voice. “He took care of his players. He knew what to say, and how to motivate players.  He handpicked all the people on the team. Everybody on the Blitz had something in common that coach Allen saw in each of one us.”

Spencer didn’t disappoint Allen, rushing for 1,157 yards and six touchdowns in 1983. Allen's penchant for bringing in veteran players worked to perfection as former New York Jet, Kevin Long, rushed for 1,022 yards as well in ’83. 

It was only the fourth time in pro football history that two backs each rushed for 1,000 yards in a season. “Kevin was my buddy and our wives were friends,” Spencer said. “I had my thousand, he was inching up to his thousand. But something weird would always happen as he was getting closer to that 1,000-yard mark. He would trip on the turf or fall down when no one touched him.”

Long was more than a teammate to Spencer, Long was well prepared for the games and practice, by studying film and knowing the playbook inside and out. “I thought I was well prepared, but Kevin was really prepared for the games,” Spencer said. “Charlie Joiner [later with the Chargers] & Kevin really taught me the importance of studying the opposing team.”

While attendance was thriving in cities like Denver, Tampa Bay, Birmingham, New Jersey and Michigan, the Chicago Blitz were holding their own – averaging a little more than 18,000 fans per game. 

 

“We had a fan-base of 12,000, and we’d get around 20,000 fans at some games,” Spencer said. “We knew it was a Bears’ town, but the fans took to us.  Even a few Bear players came to see us.”  The Blitz were 12-6 under Allen that first year, but lost a 44-38 O.T. playoff game to the Stars.

After the 1983 season, the Blitz and Wranglers swapped franchises. So it was off to dusty Arizona for Spencer. “My wife-to-be didn’t want to go at the time,” Spencer said with an amusing tone in his voice. “Arizona was just a dusty town 23 years ago.”

The former Blitz squad, now the Wranglers, were coming off a 12-6 year, and were expected to play well in their new town of Phoenix.

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