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Spears maximizes 2nd chances at Prairie View, NFL
Quinton Spears doesn’t mind being an underdog. He simply wants a chance to prove his worth.
Prairie View A&M gave him his first chance, allowing him to walk on as a wide receiver out of Montgomery High School in 2006 after other programs declined to offer him a scholarship because of a knee injury. He proved himself worthy, moving to defensive end and becoming a three-time All-Southwestern Athletic Conference selection before graduating last spring.
Spears received his next big opportunity when the Miami Dolphins signed him as an undrafted free agent during preseason. The Cleveland Browns followed that up by claiming Spears off waivers from the Dolphins in early September.
Today, he’s still proving his worth.
Spears (6-4, 234) has adjusted to life as a reserve outside linebacker and special-teams player for the 2-2 Browns. He recorded his first tackle in a 27-19 victory over Indianapolis on Sept. 18.
The odds of playing in the NFL are long for players coming from Football Championship Subdivision programs, but Spears is beating them.
“It’s a blessing because I’ve had to change positions and learn on the fly for most of my football career,” Spears said. “I’ve had the odds stacked against me since getting injured in high school during my senior year and not getting any recruiters to look at me and then walking on to Prairie View having to prove myself. And then coming into (the NFL) as an undrafted free agent, you have to prove yourself all over again.”
Spears, 23, returned to the Houston area last week since the Browns have the weekend off. He visited his former coaches and teammates at Prairie View on Thursday, addressing the team in the huddle after practice.
Prairie View coach Heishma Northern could hardly contain his joy.
“That’s big for me as a coach because I remember him as walk-on who probably didn’t even have a helmet for a couple of practices,” said Northern, who was the Panthers’ defensive coordinator from 2005-10. “Now he’s playing in the NFL, not just on the practice squad, and he looks like an NFL player. That’s the thing that makes me proud.
“He didn’t come here as a three- or four-star recruit. He came here as a guy who no one wanted, and we took a chance on him, moving him from offense to defense. To see all his hard work and dedication pay off makes me feel like an uncle or a big brother to have him stand in front of the ballclub.”
Former Prairie View coach Henry Frazier III, who left during the offseason to take over at North Carolina Central, had Spears speak to his Eagles before a Sept. 10 game in Cleveland.
“I’m so very proud of Quinton,” Frazier said. “I watched him go from a boy to a man, and now I’m watching him make a living at the game he loves.”
Spears still has some learning to do. He played outside linebacker in the Dolphins’ 3-4 scheme, so he’ll have to continue adjusting to the Browns’ 4-3 alignment. He also needs to be prepared for a possible increase in playing time, giving Cleveland’s thin depth at linebacker.
Along the way, Spears hopes to continue inspiring former teammates and underdogs elsewhere who dream of playing in the NFL.
“It just shows that guys who don’t go to big schools can compete and perform at the highest level,” Spears said. “It’s also opening doors for younger guys coming through (Prairie View) so they see that you can actually make it and be successful coming from a historically black university.”
By RONNIE TURNER, Houston Chronicle