Chris Spielman put together a tremendous collegiate career playing for the Ohio State Buckeyes. He was a two-time consensus All-American playing linebacker in Columbus, winning the Lombardi Award in his senior season in 1987. He would go on to be a second-round pick by the Lions in 1988 at No. 29 overall.
Even though he fell to the Lions in the second round, he was the driving force behind Detroit’s defense for the next eight years. From 1988 to 1995, Spielman made four trips to the Pro Bowl (1989-91, 1994) and made three All-Pro teams.
His best season as a professional coincided with the Lions’ best season in easily the last half century in 1991. Spielman made his third straight trip to the Pro Bowl, making his only First-Team All-Pro roster. He had 126 tackles that season, but most importantly, the Lions made it all the way to the NFC Championship that season.
Though they came up short against the eventual Super Bowl champion Washington Redskins, Detroit did make the NFC playoffs in four of Spielman’s eight seasons with the Lions. From 1988 to 1996, Spielman had at least 100 combined tackles, including a league-best 195 in 1994, his last Pro Bowl season.
Spielman would leave the Lions after the 1995 NFL season to play two years with the Buffalo Bills. After the 1997 NFL season, Spielman would sit out the entire 1998 campaign to help take care of his wife Stefanie, who was battling breast cancer. He briefly returned to the expansion Cleveland Browns in 1999, but Spielman would hang up the spikes at age-34.
After he was done playing in the NFL, Spielman immediately got to work in the booth, as he started calling college games primarily for ESPN. Today, Spielman can be seen on FOX offering color commentary in the booth on NFL games alongside Thom Brennaman.
It should be noted that Spielman’s brother Rick Spielman is the general manager of the Lions’ NFC North rival Minnesota Vikings. Both brothers continue to leave their mark on the game of football at the NFL level.
Even though Spielman has been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame for his time with Ohio State, like his former Detroit teammate Herman Moore, Spielman is likely to stay in the Hall of Very Good and never earn Canton enshrinement. That being said, he is the best draft-day steal the Lions have made where the player’s football journey didn’t end, or won’t end, in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.