“Football is a direct reflection of life. There are wins, there are losses; you get knocked down, you get back up.” – Chris Spielman
Born and raised in the shadow of the birthplace of professional football, Chris Spielman was destined to become a football player. As a Parade All-American at Massillon High School and Ohio State, and throughout his 10-year NFL career, Spielman’s life was defined by football and the hits he delivered on the field. But the hardest hit of his life, however, came when his high school sweetheart and wife Stefanie Spielman was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998 at the age of 30. The focus of his life shifted from the field to off it, and to the biggest challenge he would ever encounter.
NFL Network’s Emmy-nominated series A Football Life continues Wednesday, October 31 at 8:00 PM ET with a profile of Spielman, chronicling his celebrated playing career and his roles as a father of four, college football analyst, inspirational speaker and advocate of cancer awareness. The one-hour documentary features exclusive interviews with Spielman, family members, friends and former teammates, providing an emotional, comprehensive and compelling look at the football player, husband and father.
Growing up in Canton, Ohio, Spielman was surrounded by football and the sport consumed every aspect of his life. In high school, Spielman’s talents landed him on a Wheaties box and led him to Ohio State, where he was an All-American and won the Lombardi Award as college football’s best linebacker in 1987. A second-round pick of the Detroit Lions in 1988, Spielman played eight seasons in Detroit before spending two years with the Buffalo Bills.
In 1998, following his wife’s diagnosis with breast cancer, Spielman sat out for the entire season, helping her battle through chemotherapy and their family’s highs and lows with the same determination and indefatigable energy he displayed on the field. He appeared with Stefanie on the cover of Parade Magazine and on national talk shows such as Oprah, raising awareness of the disease. After an 11-year battle with the disease, including periods of being cancer-free, Stefanie passed away in 2009. Since then, Spielman has continued to serve as a spokesman and fundraiser for cancer research through the Stefanie Spielman Fund, which has generated more than $10 million, and the Stefanie Spielman Comprehensive Breast Cancer in Columbus, Ohio, which provides care and hope for cancer patients.
Chris Spielman: A Football Life includes interviews with the following people:
Rick Spielman – Chris’ brother & current Minnesota Vikings general manager
Sue Fitz – Stefanie Spielman’s sister
Lomas Brown – Detroit Lions offensive tackle, 1985-95
Wayne Fontes – Detroit Lions head coach, 1988-96
Thurman Thomas – Buffalo Bills running back, 1988-99
Mike Currence – Massillon High School head coach
Jim Lachey – Ohio State teammate
Jeff Uhlenhake – Ohio State teammate
Jim Brandstatter – Detroit Lions broadcaster
Shannon Peterson – Family friend
Emmy-nominated actor from CBS’ The Good Wife, Josh Charles, narrates.
For the first look at Chris Spielman: A Football Life, visit:
Following are select quotes from Chris Spielman: A Football Life:
– “Football helps you prepare [for] and is a direct reflection of life. There are wins, there are losses; you get knocked down, you get back up.” – Chris Spielman
– “For me, it was just meant to be my destiny because of the situation that I grew up in.” – Spielman on playing football
– “When he went in the second round, he already had a chip on his shoulder – it turned into a boulder.” – Jim Lachey
– “[He] was straight throwback; Dick Butkus, Ray Nitschke – that was this guy. He was cut out of that mold.” – Lomas Brown
– “I couldn’t let her go through that alone. It was my duty as a husband to walk her through that and to be with her. That’s my duty – nobody else’s duty. I said, ‘in sickness and health’ to her in front of God and witnesses. I meant it.” – Spielman on not playing the 1998 season following his wife’s diagnosis of breast cancer
– “He gave up everything for her and put his life to the side.” – Sue Fitz
– “She never, ever felt sorry for herself. She didn’t want to talk about the end; she wanted to live her life to the fullest. It makes you think about how everybody should live their life.” – Shannon Peterson
Below is the remaining broadcast schedule for A Football Life, airing on Wednesday nights at 8:00 PM ET:
- November 7 – Jimmy Johnson
- November 21 – John Riggins
- December 5 – Barry Sanders
- December 12 – Marcus Allen
- December 19 – The Immaculate Reception
Airing throughout the NFL season, A Football Life examines the iconic individuals and subjects that have had an undeniable and profound impact on the history of the National Football League, offering an inside look into their untold stories.
Every episode of A Football Life and all NFL Network programming is streamed live on NFL Mobile from Verizon, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
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