After suffering a series of concussions early in his high school career, both on and off the field, Union Redhawk Matthew Spicer’s football career appeared to be over.
While he can no longer suit up on Friday nights, the senior has found a way to remain a part of the Redhawks program. Spicer is currently in his second season as Union’s first-ever student assistant coach.
“I’ve learned so much,” admitted Spicer. “I never knew how much behind the scenes work coaches had to do.”
“He’s a guy that loves football and has found a place to serve now that he’s not playing,” said Union head coach Kirk Fridrich. “We’ve kind of walked this journey with him during his recovery. We’re excited he’s at a point where he’s really helping us win football games.”
A former lineman, Spicer currently helps coach Union defensive backs. He assists first-year coach Keenan Reed with everything from studying film to running drills at practice.
“He’s a very impressive kid,” said Reed, a former TCU defensive back. “He has an amazing story. He understands ‘The Union Way.’ That helps, especially with me being a new coach at Union. It’s surprising coming from someone that’s younger than me, but he’s unbelievable.”
To see how far Spicer has come is truly incredible. His injuries were so severe, at one point he lost complete vision in his right eye. His struggles with balance and memory loss were extreme enough that he had to use a wheelchair and spend several months in physical therapy.
“I still have a love for the game,” added Spicer, who made up for missing school during his months of rehab by attending summer classes and is on track to graduate in the spring. “I want to be a coach. I’m grateful that Coach Fred gave me the opportunity to do it.”
“We look at it as we’re trying to prepare him for what’s next,” said Fridrich, who has led Union to five state championships. “If he wants to coach, then we’re going to try and treat him like a coach and try to teach him to coach, just like you would teach a linebacker how to make a tackle. He’s taken on that role and done a really good job.”
Spicer helped lead the Redhawks to an unbeaten regular season record this fall. Union is just three wins away from a state championship, something that would be a fairy tale finish to Spicer’s high school career.
“I knew we were going to be good this season, especially with how last season ended,” claimed Spicer. “We lost in state championship. We’ve always kept that in the back of our mind.”
Spicer is living proof that nothing in life is guaranteed and to never give up.
“The way he’s fought through adversity and is still part of this and part of the camaraderie is what’s great about it,” stated Reed. “We talk to the kids all the time about perseverance and overcoming adversity and nobody knows that better than Matthew Spicer.”
Top-ranked Union takes the field this Friday night when the Redhawks host crosstown rival Broken Arrow in a huge 6A-I quarterfinal showdown. This Ford Game of the Week will be broadcast live on Cox’s YurView Channel 3 at 7 P.M. and also available online.