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Age is just a number for Reggie Spearman

[ 0 ] August 4, 2014 |

 – Sunday, Aug. 17 will be a special day for Iowa sophomore linebacker Reggie Spearman. He finally will be old enough to vote as he turns 18.

Spearman doesn’t have a wild celebration planned because he will still be participating in preseason practice.

“I don’t know, probably just go back to my hotel and celebrate with my teammates; that’s all,” Spearman said Monday.

Most kids look forward to their 18th birthday because it moves them a step closer to being treated like an adult. With Spearman, though, age doesn’t really matter. He started being an adult when he came to college at the age of 16, when most kids are entering either their junior or senior year of high school.

“There is nothing to it,” Spearman said. “I just skipped a grade and that was it.”

Spearman isn’t necessarily in a huge hurry to get where he wants to be in life. The Chicago native just has a knack for making difficult things look easy.

Despite being the youngest player on the team by a wide margin last season, Spearman played in 10 games instead of being redshirted. He was part of a rush package that Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker installed last season to pressure the quarterback.

Spearman now enters his sophomore season faced with the daunting task of replacing all-Big Ten performer Anthony Hitchens. Spearman is among three new starters at linebacker for Iowa.

He is by far the youngest of the three new starters at linebacker, more than four years younger than fourth-year junior Travis Perry and nearly three years younger than senior Quinton Alston, who was just 17 when he came to college in 2011.

“I was young, but not Reggie young,” Alston said.

Alston was stunned when he met Spearman a year ago and learned his age.

“I did not know he was 16 until he told me,” Alston said. “But you look at him a little bit differently now.”

Chris Doyle has worked with hundreds of players during his 15 years as Iowa’s strength and conditioning coach. Spearman has provided a unique opportunity. Doyle had to take Spearman’s age into consideration when he designed an individual workout regimen for him.

“When you put him through a functional movement screen and you realize that he’s just so young and just mastering now at that age what we consider to be basic movement patterns,” Doyle said. “From a training maturity perspective, he’s a young guy.

“So the bright part of it and the exciting part of it is it doesn’t take a lot to stimulate a guy like that. He’s just improving at such a fast rate. That’s really fun.”

Doyle said he only remembers one other player — an offensive lineman at Syracuse about 20 years — who was as young as Spearman was upon entering college.

“That was the first time at Iowa that we had seen a guy that young,” Doyle said. “He had to be a mature guy to step in not only to this environment, but he also progressed fairly quickly and found himself on the playing field as a true freshman. That’s really impressive.

“We just have to keep in mind his age and treat him accordingly. But he loves football and he’s a competitive kid. So he’s been a lot of fun to work with.”

Spearman showed humility while speaking with reporters on Monday. He appreciates his spot on top of the depth chart, but hardly takes it for granted.

“All the linebackers we have are great linebackers,” said Spearman, who graduated from Simeon High School in Chicago. “I’m just glad the coaches trust me enough to be out there because I know any one of those guys could step in and do just what I’m doing.”

Spearman also appreciates the year he spent playing with Iowa’s senior triumvirate at linebacker last season. In addition to Hitchens, who was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the fourth round of the NFL Draft, Iowa also has to replace Christian Kirksey and James Morris at the other two linebacker positions. Kirksey was drafted in the third round by the Cleveland Browns, while Morris recently signed a free agent contract with the New England Patriots.

“They were great role models last year; they taught us the way,” Spearman said. “Any time we needed somebody to give us a hand they were willing to give us a hand. They showed us around in the film room. They showed us where we’re supposed to be. I just want to bring that down to the younger guys we have coming in.”

Spearman is younger than all but one of Iowa’s 18 incoming freshmen. New Jersey linebacker Jameer Outsey was born approximately two weeks after Spearman on Sept. 9, 1996.

Iowa linebacker coach LeVar Woods still has to remind himself about Spearman’s age.

“I do, yes, a lot,” Woods said. “It’s a big upside, just his physical development. I know where I was when I was 17 and about to turn 18 years old. I was still a senior in high school. And Reggie is going to be in his second year of college. He’s a smart guy who works really hard.”

West Branch native Bo Bower, who also plays linebacker, was redshirted last season as a true freshman. Bower is nearly two years older than Spearman, but Bower learned right away that Spearman was mature beyond his years.

“The only time it ever comes up is if we’re just joking around,” Bower said of Spearman’s age. “But he’s physically there. So we don’t ever think about his age.”

Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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