Football

Detroit King coach Tyrone Spencer battles through losing mentors

Detroit King head coach Tyrone Spencer watches his team play against Detroit Cass Tech on Oct. 1, 2016 in Detroit.

Detroit King head coach Tyrone Spencer watches his team play against Detroit Cass Tech on Oct. 1, 2016 in Detroit.

It has been a bittersweet year for Detroit King football coach Tyrone Spencer.

He found his father, Tyrone Spencer Sr., dead in his apartment last week.

His funeral was Saturday.

In July, he lost Dale Harvel, the King football coach, who was like a father to him.

Spencer was promoted to replace Harvel and the Crusaders won the Division 2 state championship.

“In less than a year I lost two men who were my fathers,’’ he said today at the Detroit Public School League signing day event at the Horatio Williams Foundation.

“It was crazy. You can look at it as I lost both of my fathers in less than a year. Coach Harvel was my football father and then my actual father, I just lost him. They said he had a heart attack. It has been rough. I think my dad has instilled in me a lot of things to keep my grounded, spiritually. Just knowing my dad is in a better place. … He had battled cancer and actually had beat it. He was stressing with surgeries he had at the University of Michigan. That’s hard. I don’t wish that on anybody; finding your father dead in his apartment.”

King athletic director Barry Cannon said the school and community have wrapped their arms around Spencer in his time of need.

“It’s emotional, but we’re still tight as a family,’’ said Cannon. “We just have to have each other’s back. Sometimes adversity creates character. Coach Spence, his character has risen above all the adversity. We’re there for him. He leans on us, we lean on him, too.

“Being I’ve lost my parents I’ve been able to help him out a lot. I was one of the first people he called. I just told him don’t worry about it. The school, the football team. … We’ve got him on that end. He’s the oldest sibling and he has to be there for his family and we’re there for him.”

Big haul: 31 PSL players received scholarships. A total of 16 were from Detroit Cass Tech, highlighted by Jaylen Kelly-Powell and Donovan Peoples-Jones, who were early enrollees at Michigan and couldn’t attend the event.

“That’s not the most we’ve had in a year,’’ said Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher. “We’re still working on some other kids. We still have to branch out more and look at other universities out of state to make sure we’re providing our kids the best possible options.

“We still have a lot more to do.’’

King had eight, led by Ambry Thomas, already enrolled at Michigan, and Cepeda Phillips, the star linebacker headed to Kent State.

“Cepeda was the heart and soul of the program,’’ said Spencer. “Bree (Thomas) was a leader, too, but Cepeda won our leadership award. He is going to be the guy that you miss because this year he took it to another level. He was always positive. He was always encouraging the team, even after our two losses. I appreciate him stepping up that way.

“He played special teams, he played fullback, he played linebacker; he played whatever we needed. He said in crucial moments ‘Coach, I’m in.’ ‘’

Phillips credited King for making him the player he is.

“Kent State was like family, the recruits the coaches, the players already up there,’’ said Phillips. “They took me in. The second state title was very special, going back-to-back. It hadn’t been done in the history of King. I feel like I’ve been a big part of that.

“It was a very inspiring year. Coach Tyrone Spencer stepped up. He took over the role of Coach Harvel. Nobody can replace Coach Harvel, but he took on his role and he did a good job. He was my defensive coordinator. We were familiar with him and he did a great job.’’

Headed to prep school: Ranan Harris is headed to Alabama Prep. A Detroit native, Harris moved back from Alabama to play football at Detroit Denby this year and made his presence felt immediately.

“I was working out twice a day even before practice started,’’ said Harris. “I came back up here this year after spending four years in Alabama. Alabama is a prep school that helps you get your grades up and get the test scores up. You go there for a semester and they help you try and get another scholarship. You still get four years of eligibility.

“It was great playing for coach (Tony) Blankenship. He really put a good father figure and system inside me and the whole team. He brought us together when we went to camp. He told us we were a special group.’’

Denby won the Division 2 PSL championship over Mumford.