Marc Spindler played his last NFL game in 1998, but finds his competitive streak serves him well in business.
“Every year, when the draft comes around, I go into a funk,” said Spindler, who played nine years in the NFL for the Detroit Lions, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets. “You want to be able to do it all over again. Then you move past it and get to work. The real arena is the arena of life. There are some hungry individuals out there. I compete against Hall of Famers every day in the marketplace.”
Spindler was the All-USA Defensive Player of the Year in 1986 as a 6-foot-5, 275-pound defensive tackle at West Scranton (Pa.). At Pitt, he was the fourth player to start in his first game as a freshman, setting a team record in 1987 for most tackles as a freshman with 106. He missed most of his sophomore year with a knee injury but led the Panthers his junior year in tackles and was one of 12 Lombardi Award finalists.
He was mentioned as a potential award winner going into his senior season, but he entered the draft a year early after coach Mike Gottfried was fired.
“I would have liked to be a consensus All-American,” Spindler said. “But (turning pro) was the right opportunity at the right time. Pitt was undergoing some catastrophic changes. The NCAA was all over us and I knew it was going to be bad. We ended up skating through all that, but it could have gotten ugly quick. I made the right choice.”
He was drafted in the third round in 1990 by the Detroit Lions and was only 20 when he started his first NFL game. He played with an aggressive style that led to nine surgeries.
“My father taught me to play the game mean,” Spindler said. "I can walk around pretty good now for someone who is 42 who played for nine years. I played hard and I did everything under the sun to stay on the field.”
In 1994, he had a serious ankle injury that meant he couldn’t walk for nearly three months. The week he came back, he completely tore one of his ligaments. Yet, he played in nine games that season with the Lions.
“I would limp into the back room and emerge out of there jogging,” Spindler said. “It was nothing for me to get a full IV of a painkiller or an injection of Toradol (an anti-inflammatory drug). If you played football, you played it in pain. Xylocaine, Lidocaine, anything with a caine (a family of anestetics) they would inject. I did what was necessary.”
When he was 29, his football career was over. A fan favorite with the Lions, he went to work in sports talk radio with WDFN and WXYT in Detroit.
“I agree about what Howard Cosell said about the ‘jock-ocracy’ and with some former athletes, it was painful to watch,” Spindler said. “I did not want to be viewed that way, so I asked to be the lowest guy on the totem pole so I could learn from the best guys.”
When he was replaced at WXTY in 2005, he invested in a rustic log furniture company. When that didn’t work out, he found his niche as a hearing aid specialist with Frasier Enterprises, training sales associates for 12,000 Miracle Ear franchises.
“The psychology of the hearing-impaired is very delicate,” Spindler said. “Knowing how to program a modern hearing aid is complicated and complex. It’s important for me to do it the right way.”
Because he spent most of his career in Detroit and lives in nearby Clarkston, Mich., he remains a Lions fan. Not so much with the Pitt Panthers. Because he left a year early before that was common, he was persona non grata around the Pitt campus.
“It’s unfortunate to go from being a guy they built a program around to being more or less blackballed,” Spindler said. “That really hurt me. For a while, it looked like Dave Wannstedt was reaching out, but when he was fired, that ended.”
When he’s not working, Spindler spends his time with his wife Rochelle, daughters Gabriella, Isabella and Dominique, and son Rocco, or hunting with his family on their 250-acre farm, Endless Oaks.
“The game has blessed me, but it’s no contribution to society to be an athlete, to take a God-given talent and use it,” Spindler said. “My great contribution to society has to do with being a father and husband.”
This fall, Rocco, 10, began his first year of Pop Warner football and Spindler helped coach the team.
“The first time I stood with my arm around him and they did the national anthem, I kind of felt like the passing of the torch for the first time in my life,” Spindler said.