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JD Spielman, Son of NFL GM, Chasing Football Dream Despite Lacrosse Stardom

Tyler Donohue@@TDsTakeNational Recruiting AnalystFebruary 27, 2015

Photo courtesy of JD Spielman

JD Spielman made serious noise as a collegiate lacrosse recruit early in his high school career. Now, he's focused on earning scholarship opportunities in football before graduation.

The 5'9", 175-pound prospect is a versatile standout at Minnesota powerhouse Eden Prairie High School and is the son of Vikings general manager Rick Spielman. His uncle, Chris Spielman, was an All-American linebacker at Ohio State and went on to have a lengthy NFL career.

JD was supposed to be a Buckeye, too. 

He committed to play lacrosse at Ohio State in July 2013 following a freshman season that featured 30 goals and a state championship. Spielman capped off a magnificent campaign with the game-winning goal in state championship action and starred again last spring as Eden Prairie captured a second straight state title.

Things appeared on track for JD to join his brother, Ohio State freshman Ronnie Spielman, on the Buckeyes' roster in 2016. Instead, he's opted to shift gears and prove himself as a prospect all over again.

"I just love football and can't get enough of it," Spielman said. "I realized that I can't imagine being done with the sport after high school, so I'm doing everything I can to reach the next level."

Spielman has secured two state titles as a lacrosse star and committed to Ohio State in 2013.
Spielman has secured two state titles as a lacrosse star and committed to Ohio State in 2013.Credit: TopLaxRecruits.com
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After weighing those feelings internally, he approached his father about the change of heart as a sophomore.

"He was honest with me, saying, 'If you're serious about making it to the next level, you need to get bigger, faster and stronger,'" Spielman said. "Since then, we've focused on my nutrition and training. I've gained about 20 solid pounds by following his advice. Athleticism is important at any level, but size becomes a much bigger factor when you reach college."

His speed has also drastically improved despite added bulk. Spielman shared his 40-yard dash time dropped from 4.60 to. 4.45 seconds with a heightened training regimen. 

Lacrosse remains an option, but his attention is directed toward securing opportunities on the gridiron.

"The scholarship is still there, but they understand right now that I'm focused on the football recruiting process," Spielman said. "My dad and I had a talk while I was deciding on the lacrosse scholarship. He asked me, 'If a Division I college football opportunity comes up, would you take it over lacrosse?' I already knew the answer. Football comes first."

Now that he's made it clear, college programs are taking increased stock of the two-way playmaker.

"I've reached back out to some of the schools that were sending me early mail for football, so they know what my plans are," Spielman said. 

Several teams have reciprocated his interest. 

He'll travel to Northwestern this weekend while three other Big Ten campus visits are set for the spring. Spielman will spend time at Iowa, Nebraska and Michigan in coming weeks.

Could a one-time future Buckeye eventually become a Wolverine?

"My whole family has been about Ohio State, but my dad asked me if I'd be interested in playing at Michigan," he said. "It's a great campus—I visited for lacrosse—and that program is heading in the right direction. My dad told me he was going to talk to Coach [Jim] Harbaugh and set that up. I'm excited for it."

It certainly helps to have a father who has spent more than two decades working in the NFL. He accepted a position with Minnesota in 2006 following stints with the Lions, Bears and Dolphins.

"Having a dad at home who has been around football his entire life is a huge plus," Spielman said.

"Words can't describe how much he's meant to my improvement as a player. He breaks down my game more from an NFL standpoint than a college or high school standpoint. From fundamentals to film study, it's a big help. All of the stuff I focus on using in games now is based on things that my father taught me or things I've learned while being on the Vikings sideline."

His unique access to the professional game has allowed him to note nuances about the sport other young players may never have a chance to see. He found another mentor in five-year NFL veteran Marcus Sherels, who plays cornerback and stars as a punt returner for Minnesota.

"He's been a big influence because we both return punts and we're not exactly the biggest guys (Sherels is listed at 5'10", 175 pounds)," Spielman said. "He proves you don't need to be a big player to make big plays; it's all about staying focused and doing your job. We'll talk on the sidelines about what he's doing on the field, and I consider him a friend now."

Sherels has helped motivate Spielman to pursue football.
Sherels has helped motivate Spielman to pursue football.Rogelio Solis/Associated Press

College teams have predominately targeted Spielman as a slot receiver or cornerback, validating his "athlete" status on 247Sports.

He plans to expand his recruitment beyond Big Ten territory this summer, eyeing potential visits to Oregon, Iowa State, Kansas, Baylor and Kentucky.

There's still a chance Spielman goes back to his initial game plan and joins Ronnie in Columbus for a lacrosse career. However, he ultimately hopes at least one program will give him a reason not to go that route.

"My brother says if I get a football scholarship, he'd want me to take it, too," Spielman said. "It's up to me to make that happen. I'm not ready to be done with football after next season."

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue.

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