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Come for the academics, stay for the athletics

More news about: Hendrix
Michael Spainhour had a breakout game against TLU, catching six passes and scoring twice.
Hendrix athletics photo

By Brian Lester
D3sports.com

Every college football player can tell a story about the road to their team.

Michael Spainhour’s path to the Hendrix football team started at a cookout at the home of former Warriors quarterback Seth Peters, who graduated after last season.

“I came into contact with the offensive coordinator [Jordan Neal] at a BBQ at my neighbor’s house,” Spainhour said. “We stayed in touch from there, and here I am.”

Indeed he is, and what an impact he has made during the early part of his junior season. Particularly on Saturday when the speedy wide receiver came through with a breakout game against Texas Lutheran, catching six passes for 165 yards and scoring two touchdowns.

All of the totals are career highs.

“I haven’t had a game like that since I’ve been here,” Spainhour said. “I wasn’t really expecting anything. I was just going out and playing my game and doing my job, and the numbers were in my favor this week.”

His head coach, Buck Buchanan, wasn’t surprised at all by the stellar performance and expects even more from Spainhour in the weeks to come.

“I thought that was what he could do all along,” Buchanan said. “Sometimes Michael gets overlooked. He’s a special player. We are glad to let him get the ball in space and let him do something with it.”

Spainhour wasn’t highly recruited coming out of Greenbrier High School in Arkansas and planned to attend Hendrix because of its academic reputation. His hope was to play football as well.

But his opportunities always seemed to be limited. He comes from a football family -– his father, uncle and grandfather all played at Ouachita Baptist –- and he’s been involved in the game since his pee wee football days.

In high school, though, he had to wait his turn, and it wasn’t until his senior year that he finally had a chance to make an impact. That year he snagged 34 passes for 600 yards and found the end zone nine times.

“We had a bunch of good receivers at Greenbrier, and I was behind them until my senior year,” Spainhour said. “When I got a chance to play, that’s when it started really getting fun.”
He also took up track as a senior as a way to stay in shape for his freshman season at Hendrix. He competed as a jumper and sprinter in high school. He enjoyed the sport so much that he decided to do it at Hendrix as well.

He is in both the long jump and triple jump at Hendrix and also runs the 100, 200 and is part of the 400 relay team.

“I love track and football pretty equally,” Spainhour said.

It took him time to adapt to life as a college athlete, especially balancing a rigorous academic schedule with two sports.

But he’s managed to pull it off and last season he was hoping to really step up as a receiver. A health issue changed that.

“The night after my first game, my appendix burst,” Spainhour said. “I had to have surgery the next morning and missed six or seven games after that. It was tough to have to sit out.”

He came back near the end of the season, but his contributions were minimal as he finished with only 87 receiving yards for the season.

This year he seems to be on track to have a season to remember, and Buchanan will tell you Spainhour has what it takes to be an impact player.

“He has a tremendous work ethic, and he takes that mentality into everything he does,” Buchanan said. “He’s gotten better every year, and he has a drive to continue to be the best player he can be.”

Spainhour believes he has made strides in all aspects of his game, and he is looking forward to helping Hendrix contend for an SAA championship after falling short of the goal a year ago.

“I’m having fun and we are all getting better every week,” Spainhour said. “We just have to keep doing what we are doing and we’ll be in line for success.”

Fast start: Points weren’t in short supply for East Texas Baptist in its 59-17 win over Southwestern Assemblies of God on Saturday. The Tigers scored three times on drives that lasted under a minute and another scoring drive covered just 30 seconds.

Quarterback Dru Smith was as sharp as he was a year ago, throwing for 265 yards and four touchdowns. He completed 14 of his 24 passes.

Smith threw for at least two touchdowns for the 10th time in his career and went over 200 yards for the 11th time. Setting the record for touchdowns in a season (34), Smith racked up more than 3,000 yards in 2016, and it won’t be a surprise if he surpasses that mark again.

With Smith under center, East Texas is ready to be even better than it was a season ago when it hung 40 or more points on the board six times and tied a school record for the most wins (7).

Smith is in his second season as a starter and was an ASC honorable mention selection last year. He was named the league’s offensive player of the week three times.

Noteworthy: Jonathan Fisher racked up eight tackles for Berry in its 28-14 win over LaGrange. Fisher’s effort helped the Vikings win their 10th victory at home since 2015. Fisher has tallied 85 tackles over the last two seasons and already has 16 this year...Jordan Gunter caught his first career touchdown in Centre’s dominant 61-10 win over Anderson. The freshman out of Louisville has caught five passes for 38 yards in two games...Southwestern was impressive in its ASC debut, setting school records for points (56), rushing yards (500) and rushing attempts (74) in a 56-12 victory over McMurry. Three players went over 100 yards rushing, including signal-caller Frederick Hover, who churned out 134 yards and scored twice. He threw two touchdown passes as well. Elijah Smith and Devin Shawn both rushed for 100-plus yards as well. Hover is a junior and rushed for 614 yards last year. He already has 171 this season to go along with 338 passing yards and is more than halfway to matching his 2016 total (602).

Brian Lester

Brian Lester is a reporter in Florida. He has 14 years of experience at newspapers in Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio, spending 10 at The Courier in Findlay, Ohio. Lester also writes an Around the Region column for D3hoops.com and wrote Around the Great Lakes for D3football.com from 2012-14. He is a graduate of Eastern Illinois.

2014 columnist: Justin Goldberg
2013 columnist: Andee Djuric
2012 columnist: Kyle Robarts
2008-11 columnist: Jason Bowen

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