The first thought is: not very big. The second thought is: not very easy to catch. Rabbit-quick…
"We Walk!" #6: RB Michael Spanos [#4]
Alexander G. Spanos epitomizes the American dream. A
rags-to-riches story that tells of a washed-up baker who turned $800 into a
billion-dollar real estate enterprise. The
Spanos has been blessed with four children and 15 grandchildren in his lifetime. His lineage has been immersed in the sport of football since each took in its first breath of air. Spanos's passion for the game has influenced one grandson to extend his football career to a higher level.
"He's been a huge inspiration to me and my family," said Michael Spanos, a freshman walk-on running back for Stanford in 2009. "They set the bar high for themselves because of him, so I do as well. He's taught me to never quit on what I've started and to 'dream big' because it's definitely possible."
And now Michael will apply his grandfather's counsel to his own aspirations. A walk-on NCAA athlete is given nothing, and Michael must follow the example set before him and make something out of nothing.
"Seeing [my grandfather] start from nothing and getting to where he is just shows that if you want something in life, you can go out and get it," he said.
Young Michael Spanos
Growing up in
came first in the whole process," Spanos said. "Stanford is one of the greatest
schools academically in the
Spanos had all the tools academically to attend any higher education program in the country. It's no surprise that he was being courted by every Ivy League school in the Northeast.
"I was waiting for Stanford, but if that didn't turn out I was going to Yale," stated Spanos. "Of all the colleges I went to see, Stanford just felt right. The campus, surroundings, coaches, players and everything, it was just my most comfortable fit."
Another family member kept Spanos familiar with Stanford happenings, but didn't ever persuade him into his decision. Nick Ruhl, a walk-on quarterback for the Cardinal from 2006-08, is a cousin of Spanos.
"[Nick] made the process smooth and easy," Spanos said. "He was always helping me out during recruiting, getting my film to the coaches, showing me around Stanford, meeting the guys. He made me like [Stanford] that much more."
"Last year [Nick] had a really bad hamstring injury and broke his finger so he wanted to get one last season in," said Spanos. "He is going to come back to Stanford to graduate though. I'm really happy for him and hope he can get on the field to play this season."
Spanos is in a win-lose situation playing behind one of the best running backs in the country this season. Unfortunate in the sense that he may not get a single carry this season, but fortunate in that he has one of the most polished backs in America from whom to learn. Like most incoming freshmen, Spanos has tempered expectations, but is confident he can contribute immediately.
"Toby [Gerhart] is amazing and so are Blaise [Johnson] and our other backs, so I just want to help make them better," he said. "I'm just hoping to make a big impact and show the coaches what I can do, but if I end up redshirting then so be it. I just want to make an impact, special teams or anywhere, and I expect nothing less from myself."
Besides being an
entrepreneur and philanthropist, Spanos's grandfather was an exceptional athlete
himself. He lettered in diving and swimming at Stockton's
The younger Spanos is also a salty golfer and has heard word of the immaculate Stanford golf course. He is eager to walk in the footsteps of Tiger Woods, but won't even think about golf until the football season has concluded.
"After football season I will try to get as much in as I can," said Spanos, who holds a "little above par" handicap. "We have a golfing family all the way down so we have a lot of fun playing."
Another one of Spanos's pastimes outside of toting the pigskin is kickboxing. He got into the sport a couple of years ago through a family friend and admits it has turned into a love of his.
"Since I was little, I've always done karate," he said. "I phased out of that once I got older because I was doing football, baseball and golf, and once high school hit it was strictly football. [Kickboxing] really works on your quickness, speed, strength, toughness as well as your mental and physical shape. So it definitely translates to football."
The Cardinal contingent hopes to see Spanos kicking something on the football field for years to come.
"I am so excited, I can't wait," he said. "I've played football since I was eight-years-old and I've never been more excited for a season to come. It's crazy to think about it, I'm playing with the big boys now."
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