Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Padding the Stats: Final Thoughts on JD Spielman’s Departure

August 19, 2020

Over the weekend, the JD Spielman saga at Nebraska officially came to a close as the record-setting receiver chose TCU as his transfer destination. He posted a good-bye message on Instagram thanking the fans and his teammates for their support.

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I just want to take a moment to thank my true brothers my family and the Nebraska fans for their abundance of support. I know you celebrated our wins beside us and felt our losses just as much as we did. The loyalty in the Sea of Red runs deep. You’re much appreciated and very important to not only the Cornhuskers’ success but also my personal success. Good mental health is also a key component to my success not only on the football field, but also in life, school, and relationships. Focusing on my mental health allows me to understand who I am, what my passions are, and what my purpose is. Football has taught me how to overcome obstacles and face adversity. It has helped me become disciplined, determined, and resilient. At the end of the day, please remember life is so much more than football. I am and always will be much more than just an athlete. Every day is a new opportunity. Thank you again to those who have supported me on my journey. I’m forever grateful. Lots of Luv and Go B1G Red. ❤️- Tazy

A post shared by JD Spielman / Tazy Woods (@tazy10mil) on

Spielman takes with him a whole heck of a lot of production. It’s perfectly reasonable to be excited about Nebraska’s shiny new receiving corps, but that shouldn’t get in the way of acknowledging how big of a loss he is. Every receiver on the team not named Wan’Dale Robinson is a possibility; Spielman was a certainty. Nebraska was a better team with him in the lineup.

That’s why the “mutual parting” it was sold as never really sat right with me. We obviously don’t know everything that went on behind the scenes within the program. Scott Frost didn’t recruit Spielman, and Spielman didn’t commit to Frost, and it clearly wasn’t a perfect union based on how it ended. I’m sure there was something Frost was hoping to see from Spielman that never materialized, but based on what we saw out there on the field, the 5-foot-9 wideout gave a lot of blood, sweat, tears and touchdowns to the program.

Hopefully, as Frost moves his program forward, we won’t be seeing any more “mutual partings” with the team’s best playmakers.

I think there’s a bigger lesson to come from the Spielman situation as well, and it’s an important one. Spielman got into it a bit with a Husker fan on Twitter on Monday and revealed more about what he’s been dealing with in the process.

I want to first focus on that last bit for a minute: “and I wasnt recieving help or love from the other end” (sic).

What exactly is the “other end” he’s referring to here? What was the kind of help he was looking for? If he’s talking abut Nebraska’s coaches here, I hope they use it as a learning experience. There are so many things that go into being a college coach beyond just the Xs and Os and skill development. The coaches pitch the football program as a family and go into recruits’ living rooms and promise their parents to take care of them. Sometimes holding players accountable and providing some tough love is needed, but other times call for a different tact. No more than ever, coaches have to be aware of what is going on with their players, whether that be physically or emotionally.

Some of that is on the players too. It’s tough for a coach to know something is wrong if a player doesn’t open up about it, and that’s where developing strong relationships with players is important for coaches. They need to believe they can go to their coaches and talk about whatever they’re struggling with.

Depression is a big deal and it’s something far more people struggle with than we might realize. Spielman struggling to eat and sleep and playing 30 pounds below the weight he should have been yet still catching 49 passes for 898 yards is a testament to how talented he truly is. He took some massive hits in a Nebraska uniform and just kept getting back up.

Spielman never became the vocal leader or face of the program that the coaches might have wanted him to be based on his talent, role and production. But it seems like he did the best he could. It’s a big blow for Nebraska, but if he truly was not happy in Lincoln, he should seek out a better situation for himself.

Even now, transfers tend to get a bad rap. They’re labeled quitters or cowards running from competition or entitled brats who can’t take a little hard coaching. There’s no doubt that a decent-sized percentage of transfers every year would fall under those categories. But there are a lot of other legitimate reasons why players seek a fresh start. These are human beings underneath those helmets, and I hope fans think about that before lobbing insults or accusations.

I hope JD Spielman’s situations will serve as a reminder to all of us that we never truly know what’s going on in an athlete’s head or what demons they may be battling away from the spotlight. JD Spielman gave Nebraska four years of his life, and I hope he finds happiness during his senior year in Fort Worth. I also hope Wan’Dale Robinson makes the leap towards stardom and Omar Manning lives up to the hype and Alante Brown and Zavier Betts hit the ground running. I hope that “mutual parting” turns into a win-win for both parties.

And I hope the next student-athlete that goes through some of the struggles that Spielman dealt with can find the help he wants or needs before it gets to the point where a fresh start seems like the only path forward.

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