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Marc Spindler's "Legendary" Youth Football Teams Set Him on Path to NFL Success

Welcome to Why We Play, a series of discussions with current players and NFL Legends about their youth football experience and why they play the game.

Marc Spindler was just seven years old when he first suited up for his Pop Warner team in Scranton, Pennsylvania. But he says he still remembers those days clearly. 

"It’s still vivid for me because we had legendary teams," said Spindler. "My dad and his friends coached us and they made this commitment to have us well prepared and to play hard all the time. I remember going undefeated multiple times."

Along with the on-field success, Spindler said he still remembers the lessons learned in Pop Warner. 

"As you reflect back, you didn’t realize it as it happened, but the discipline you learned and having to push through a lot of things is what resonates today. Having to work together within the confines of a team and understand the playbook and rely on each other and those type of things it’s what you do now every day in life."

From the Pop Warner fields, Spindler went on to star at West Scranton High School. The touted recruit was the 1986 USA Today High School Defensive Player of the Year. He played college ball at the University of Pittsburgh and was drafted in the third round of the 1990 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. 

Spindler played defensive line for the Lions, then the New York Jets, before retiring in 1998 after a nine-year career that included 107 game appearances and 65 starts. 

These days, Spindler does sports talk radio in the Detroit area. He's also reliving his early playing days vicariously through his son, Rocco, who is now a freshman offensive lineman at Notre Dame. Rocco grew up and played in Clarkston, Michigan before joining the Fighting Irish. 

"He had a very good experience and Clarkston has one of the best run youth football organizations around," said the elder Spindler. "I remember when my son was going to play organized youth football for the first time with pads and a helmet and a real coach for the first time. I went to the coach and told him what I was looking for.

"I wanted my son to come home happy every day. He loved football and I did not want him discouraged in any way. I wanted him to be a coach that Rocco always remembered a positive light when reflecting on his first exposure to football."

"You really need to have children exposed to competition, no matter what that competition may be. Sports gives us the biggest realm to be competitive. I really believe that if it’s done the right way, the life lessons that children learn at an early age from sports can dictate a positive future."

Photo: AP/Al Golub


  • Youth Football
  • NFL Players and Legends