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Spielman reflects on his football journey ahead of Pride of the Lions induction

Chris Spielman's introduction to fans and media as a member of the Detroit Lions offered a wide-open window into the makeup and character of a man who would become one of the most productive and popular players in franchise history.

Spielman was on a conference-call interview shortly after the Lions had drafted him in the second round out of Ohio State in 1988 when asked his reaction to being drafted by the Lions.

"Let's get it on," Spielman answered quickly, showing his intent to get down to business.

And he did, for eight seasons with the Lions and two more with the Buffalo Bills after leaving Detroit in 1996 as a free agent. Spielman made four Pro Bowls – three with the Lions and one with the Bills – and was All-Pro once with the Lions.

He will be honored again Sunday as the 18th player to be inducted into the Pride of the Lions. The presentation will be made at halftime of the Lions-Eagles game at Ford Field as part of the annual Homecoming celebration.

While the award presentation brings reminders of his play on the field, there are also memories of family, teammates, the development of a star-studded team he played on in the 1990s – and his current position with the franchise and the duties at hand.

There is also a touch of irony – with the potential for history repeating itself – with the timing of Spielman's induction.

Spielman is in the first full year of his position as Special Assistant to Principal Owner and Chairperson Sheila Ford Hamp and President and CEO Rod Wood.

Spielman was hired in December to play a key role in Hamp's initiative to change the overall culture of the franchise.

While the job title "Special Assistant" is vague, Spielman's explanation of what areas of the franchise he is involved in is not.

"Everything," he said. "There's not an area I'm not involved in. There are also many areas where I just shut up and listen so I can learn. And I'm learning something different every day.

"It has kind of played out exactly how I thought it would and how I wanted it to be."

At 56, Spielman looks like he could take his turn in the rotation at linebacker – a position he played with command and authority for 10 NFL seasons. But he is as ready mentally as he is physically to perform in his new position.

There is more to running a football franchise than the 17 games on the schedule. The game, and all that goes into those 17 games, is the main thing.

Spielman is involved in the football operation, but there are other departments that keep a franchise running.

"I had no problem at all," Spielman said of the transition to corporate life. "I've done corporate communications since I left football. I've sat in on meetings and draft meetings.

"The thing is, I came in, I would say, as a player -- extremely confident that once I got an opportunity when I came into this I wasn't mature just by age but by life experience.

"Throughout this whole experience is a bible verse I rely on: 'Be quick to listen and slow to talk.'

"In doing that, I've learned a ton. The respect I have for everyone in the building and how much they care, the work they put in is something I didn't know. I didn't know the ins and outs. I realize how much they care about the team.

"What I thought is true, and has been validated, is that everybody is a Detroit Lion, not just the players."

The irony in Spielman's executive position is that he is experiencing a rebuilding process again, but in a different way than when he joined the Lions as a rookie.

He was one of the building blocks in that project. Now he's helping accumulate them.

"I was just thinking about that actually, because it kind of reminds me of where our team is now," he said. "At least from that perspective, we were bringing in new guys. After that, we knew the direction we were going to go in.

"We were able to become genuine contenders rather quickly. I think that's possible here. We had a good, solid core group. We have a great core of guys here.

"If we just keep adding to the core, that's what's going to happen."

There is a vast difference between being part of the show – a player or coach – and being part of the support staff.

Spielman has no problem accepting that, mostly because he has fulfilled his commitments and desires as a player. He heard the cheers, and he was good at what he did.

"What I said at the press conference is kind of working out that way," he said, referring to the press conference announcing his hiring.

"I've already climbed the mountain I needed to climb as an individual -- to be an NFL player and leave the game without any regrets – I wish I'd done this, I wish I'd done that – except falling short of bringing a Super Bowl to whatever team I played on.

"Now I get to enjoy that same experience, but helping other people get the experience and climb their mountain. I just want to help people do their very best.

"I don't think I'm suited for one role. I don't think I'm built for that in my second football life. I think I'm built for helping everybody, and I've been trained for that through my experiences over the years."

Spielman will hear the cheers again at Ford Field Sunday, and as much as he appreciates them he has a strong sense of sharing it with family and teammates.

View photos of Lions Legend Chris Spielman ahead of his induction into the Pride of the Lions this weekend.

He feels a strong attachment to his former teammates.

"Sometimes you don't feel like you deserve something," he said. "Why do I deserve this and not William White, George Jamison, Jerry Ball, Bennie Blades and the other great players I played with?

"I want all my teammates, if possible, to be on the field Sunday to get the recognition they deserved. Your success is dependent on the people around you."

One of his first thoughts when he learned of his induction into the Pride of the Lions was of his first wife, Stefanie, who passed away in 2009 after a long battle with cancer. They had four children.

He has since remarried and has two stepdaughters with his current wife, Carrie. Both women occupy a place in his heart and soul.

"Stefanie is a big part of my whole football journey," he said. "To be able to not only have Stefanie during that football journey, but having the support of a wife again in Carrie ... it's truly a blessing."

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