COLUMBUS — Evan Spencer has been around Ohio State football longer than his teammates, almost as long as he has been alive.
His dad, Tim, was a star running back for the Buckeyes in the early 1980s, then was an OSU assistant coach from 1994-2003. His parents met at Ohio State. His first appearance in an OSU football media guide was as a 1-year-old, sitting on his mom’s lap in a family photo.
Spencer, a sophomore wide receiver, matched his personal season-high with three catches in Ohio State’s 35-23 win over Penn State last Saturday and had two catches against Purdue.
Before that, he had not had a catch in four games after pulling in five in the first three games.
“I’ve been around the Buckeyes my whole life. Probably my best memory is the national championship, being able to be out on the field with my dad, my mom, my brother,” Spencer said. “To this day, I still get chills thinking about it.”
Tim Spencer, who played five years in the NFL, has been a Chicago Bears assistant coach since 2004.
“I try to talk to him every day, especially after games,” Evan Spencer said. “After he gives me his criticism on my games, I’ll watch the Bears games and give him criticism on what they did wrong. So it’s a two-way street.
“It means so much, it helps me so much on a day-to-day basis, whenever I’m going through something, calling him and having him be there for me and help me through stuff. And my mom, as well,” he said.
Last season as a freshman, Spencer caught three passes for 78 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown catch against Michigan State.
This season, he has 10 catches for 118 yards and has made OSU’s coaches more confident in him as the season has gone on.
“He’s gotten better every week but he was never a guy I didn’t count on” Ohio State receivers coach Zach Smith said. “He has improved his value in the program and our confidence in how we feel about him. Now he’s a guy where I say, ‘I know he will make the play, I know he will run a great route, that he will get open and catch the football.’
“As opposed to a guy who would clap his hands and say, ‘Oh shoot, my bad,’ now he is a guy who is really hard on himself in practice and is critical of himself. Now he is performing at a different level. He is running better routes, he’s blocking better,” he said.
Spencer said there is no complicated explanation for his growth on the football field.
“I’m just busting my butt. I made it a point, especially this year, to bust my butt and do everything I can — watch extra film, do whatever is necessary to better myself,” he said. “After every season, my dad and I sit down and talk about things I could improve on, to do better at this, to get better at that.”
That determination doesn’t come from his father alone. His mom, Gilda, is an attorney who flies back and forth from Chicago to Columbus for her job as chief litigation counsel for Nationwide Insurance.
Earlier this year in a story in Columbus Business First, Gilda Spencer told how an academic advisor at Ohio State tried to get her to abandon her hopes of going to law school and said she should consider becoming a paralegal.
“She discouraged me from doing that and suggested I become a paralegal. I took that as a personal challenge,” she said in the story.