HAMMOND, La. • Once the possible successor to Eli Manning at Ole Miss, Micheal Spurlock carved out a role for himself on special teams in the NFL.
Now he’s carving out a role as a college football assistant and preparing to coach against the Rebels for the first time as Southeastern Louisiana visits Oxford for a 3 p.m. kickoff on Saturday.
Spurlock appeared in 20 Ole Miss games, seeing his most action as a senior in 2005 when he drew eight starts at quarterback.
His NFL position was wide receiver. He played eight seasons and finished with 46 catches for 494 yards and three touchdowns.
However, it was special teams where Spurlock made his mark. He had 3,374 return yards and five return touchdowns.
In his second season at Southeastern, hs’s wide receivers coach and helps with special teams.
“The unfortunate thing is they’re trying to take special teams, kick return and punt return out of it,” Spurlock said of today’s NFL. “That’s kind of how I made my niche.”
An undrafted free agent, Spurlock broke into the NFL with Arizona after hiring a punter and videographer and sending the Cardinals a video of him fielding about 30 punts.
That earned him a contract, and he had stints with Tampa Bay (twice), San Francisco, San Diego, Jacksonville, Detroit, Dallas and Chicago.
He credits special teams with helping him stick.
“It’s nerve-wracking. It’s like two trains passing in the night. You’ve got to be crazy to do it, but I enjoyed every minute. I don’t think my wife did, but it’s how I made my bones until I had the opportunity to play receiver.”
College football jobs often involve connections, and Spurlock crossed paths with current Southeastern coach Frank Scelfo for two seasons when both were on staff at Texas-San Antonio. UTSA coach Frank Wilson was on Ed Orgeron’s Ole Miss staff for Spurlock’s final season.
Spurlock and Scelfo hit it off discussing, among other things, the separate times they passed through Jacksonville.
“He always said, ‘Hey, if I get the opportunity I want to help you.’ A lot of people say that, but he stood by it,” Spurlock said.
Spurlock also works with Southeastern’s academic staff for football. It’s his all-around contributions that helped draw he and Scelfo together.
“You want quality people around you. You want men who raise families and raise kids and understand what’s important … the growth and development of a young man at this level,” Scelfo said. “That’s what Micheal brings more than anything else. His membership on this staff is valued.”
Scouting his alma mater, Spurlock said he saw significant Week 1 to Week 2 improvement.
“I see a very energetic bunch. They fly around and play hard. I saw how good they can be, and that’s what we’re looking at.”
After touring the NFL Spurlock is glad to be closer to Mississippi.
He has always kept in touch with teammates. Now he’s three hours from his parents’ home in Indianola and three hours from his wife and six children in Philadelphia.
“It’s the closest I’ve been in a long time. I’ve enjoyed the people, the good food and just being back in the South.”