The Michigan Daily - Sports Monday - December 3, 1990 - Page 3
The All-Pro Detroit Lion speaks about
playing in the NFL and in Columbus
A Buckeye in the Daily? Well,
Chris Spielman is not exactly your
ordinary Ohioan. While at Ohio
State, he was one of the most feared
Buckeye defenders. Playing with
renowned intensity, he was a four
year starter, three time All Big Ten
selection, two time All American
and the recipient of the Lombardi
Trophy in his senior year.
Currently an All-Pro defensive
back for the Detroit Lions, Chris
took time out of his preparations for
he New York Giants on November
19 to talk to Daily Sports Writer
Daily: Many people know how
it feels to be a spectator at the
Michigan-Ohio State game. What's
it like to play in one?
Spielman: Well, it's probably
been the most exciting game that
I've ever been involved in and ever
will be involved in, simply because
*f what the game means and the tra-
dition of it and just the whole atmo-
sphere of the two great schools -
and they both are great schools. I
was just fortunate enough to be able
to play in four of them.
D: Michigan expressly prepared
to play against Woody Hayes when
he was still coaching. Did you pre-
pare to play against Bo?
S: Well, I have a tremendous re-
spect for Coach Schembechler. I al-
most went to Michigan for the sim-
ple fact to play for Bo, but as a
player playing that game you don't
worry about who's coaching. The
only thing you have to do is worry
about what you have to do to win
the game and Coach Schembechler
had nothing to do with me doing my
job and the other guys doing their
*job. You prepare for a team. You
don't prepare for a coach.
D: Now that you're a profession-
al player and you live in Detroit, is
the rivalry game still big in your
S: Oh, it will be a major part of
my life for as long as I live. I mean
it's something that you just don't
get rid of. It's something that will
stick with me and something that
I've been very, very fortunate to ex-
perience and I'm just thankful that I
had the chance to play in it. It's
something that will always have a
D: Ohio State put in a grass sur-
face this year and Michigan is going
grass next year. Do you prefer play-
ing on grass or turf?
S: It doesn't matter to me. Grass
might add a few years to your career
as a professional, and maybe when
I'm playing my eighth or ninth year
I'll say I wished I'd played on grass.
At this point it really doesn't matter.
D: What about the on-going pro-
posal down in Columbus to enclose
the famed horseshoe stadium to
make it a complete oval, as Florida
is doing this winter to the Gator
S: There is only one reason I can
think of that they are doing that and
that is (to make) more money. But, I
mean, if you go to anybody in Ohio
or that knows anything about the
school or the football program and
you say 'horseshoe,' they know
what you mean. To me, just to see
that horseshoe, I knew where I was
at - driving off the expressway,
you see it and you know. That sta-
dium had its own look for so many
years and that is a part of the
D: Do you like professional or
college football better and why?
S: I enjoyed college football
tremendously, simply for the fact
that you played for your school, you
played for your pride, you played for
your buddies and everything. In pro
football, there is just a little bit
more business atmosphere where
you've got other things to worry
about. You've got contracts to worry
about, maybe you have some incen-
tive clauses to worry about or some-
thing like that. That doesn't mean a
lot to me personally, but to some
other people it will. I just like the
excitement of college football with
the tradition of it and things like
D: If you couldn't make your liv-
ing playing football, would you
view the pay as kind of a bonus just
for doing something that you love to
S: For me, yeah, most definitely.
I consider it an honor and a privilege
for me to be playing in the NFL. I
think a lot of guys lose perspective
on that and think that it's a honor
for the NFL to have them playing
for them. I thank God every day that
I am what I am, and that it gives me
the opportunity to make a good liv-
ing and hopefully to secure myself
for the future and my family. I
couldn't ask for a better situation,
except that if we were winning,
which we will, eventually.
'I enjoyed college
simply for the fact that
you played for your
school, you played for
your pride, you played
for your buddies and
everything. In pro
football, there is just a
little bit more business
you've got other
things to worry about'
D: Ohio State, of course, is a
traditional winning program. Were
you prepared for the amount of los-
ing that you would go through with
S: I'm never prepared for losing.
I never accept it and I believe that
we're going to be a winning pro-
gram here. I firmly believe that in
my heart, because I know the kind of
people that are involved with the
program and the organization and
things are going in the right way.
Sooner or later things are going to
have to change.
D: Many have blamed Wayne
Fontes for the losses. Is it really the
S: Whenever you are in a losing
situation, the first thing people tend
to do is point fingers. Before you
point any fingers, you have to look
in the mirror and ask if you're doing
the job. So the blame goes on ev-
erybody involved in this program,
not just one person.
D: When you first came out of
college, even though you were a
Lombardi Award winner, I know
there were people who questioned
your ability to play in the NFL.
Now that you're a very successful
starting defensive back for the
Detroit Lions, is that vindication for
S: No, I've always believed in
myself that I could play and knew
that I could play and I never ques-
tioned it within myself. If you're in
a high performance business, I guess
you want to call it, and you are in a
high profile position, there are al-
ways going to be critics. Everybody
is always looking to criticize ath-
letes and movie stars and thistand
that and there is always going to be
questions about yourself. But, the
important thing to remember is that
you always keep a strong firm belief
in your abilities and in yourself and
if you have that then I really do be-
lieve that failure is hard to come by.
D: What do you feel about
women, female reporters, in the
S: What do I feel about women
in the locker room? I've got a sim-
ple answer. I feel like no reporter
should be in the locker room, that
there should be a separate interview
room. I believe that women have a
job to do and that they have the
same right as a man to do it, but I
prefer, personally, that no reporters
be allowed in the locker room be-
cause it's like me coming in every
day and watching you work at your
desk and asking you questions of
what you're doing and stuff like that
at any time of the day. That's some-
thing that I don't really enjoy doing
and I believe that a certain amount of
privacy is needed.
Family, hope keep
Once he returned punts up sidelines - dashing left, twisting right.
Once he leaped so high with teammate Vada Murray that opponents'
extra points and field goal attempts were never a sure thing. The two
would time their jump, raise their hands, and on some Saturday's, it
looked as if they were ascending to heaven.
Now, Tripp Welborne asks a visitor to lift his right foot off the
ground and place it on the pillows at the bottom of his bed.
How quickly life has changed for Welborne. Before returning a punt up
the sideline two weeks ago against Minnesota, the All-American stared at
a promising NFL career. Then an injury caused him to be carted off the
field, and the door to the future, at least temporarily, closed.
But the bitterness one would expect is absent. While Welborne's leg
may be bandaged and unmovable, his smile flickers, his white teeth
gleam, and what made Tripp Welborne a special, charismatic athlete at the
University of Michigan still shines through.
So last Thursday, three days after surgery, a day before his release from
University Hospital, Welborne didn't complain about the raw deal life
dealt him. Instead, he says, "I've put things in perspective. The Lord
works in mysterious ways. I know it is something that can be overcome
and it was just something that happened. It is a part of life.
"Incidents are not accidents. They happen for a purpose. It's your job
to find that purpose and that's the job I have to do. It wasn't a stop sign,
it was a mere yield sign. I have to slow down a little and catch back up."
So, he's asked, have you figured out the purpose of why you are sit-
ting in a hospital bed today?
"No! Not yet," he answers, the smile becoming infectious. "Maybe I
need more sleep, I don't know."
That's Tripp Welborne for you. Despite the circumstances, he's trying
to put a lighter note on a serious subject.
The past few days had been a big daze. So many people had been by to
visit, yet they were all a blur. Who came when? Who said what? It's hard
to remember. Sure Bo stopped by, and so did President Duderstadt, Coach
Mo, Vice Provost Charles Moody, and many teammates.
Last Monday, doctors went to work repairing his injured knee. They
fixed the medial collateral ligament and termed the surgery a success. The
medial collateral requires the knee to remain immobile after the operation.
The anterior cruciate ligament requires just the opposite. In three to five
weeks, Welborne will return for arthroscopic surgery to fix the cruciate
The first few days after surgery were painful. "I didn't eat anything un-
til Wednesday," he says. "I think I'd thrown up 10 times. My leg ached,
my body was numb. I was high, high as a kite."
So instead of a hazy smile that greeted a visitor last Tuesday, when
Welborne was told the team voted him its Most Valuable Player, he sat
Thursday with his parents, girlfriend, and roommate, Otis Williams,
laughing and kibitzing while watching Cosby and Oprah. The laugh was
back. So were the jokes.
His parents have been by his side ever since the frightening occur-
rences of two weeks ago. They've never missed one of Tripp's games -
"He'd know if ever he got hurt, we'd be there," explains Sullivan
Anthony Welborne II, a vice chancellor for student affairs at North
Carolina A&T State University. "When I first saw it, I knew that he
See GILL AGAIN, Page 7
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