SPORTS YAPP — Chris Spielman

Every week Bryce Johnson is joined on Sports Spectrum’s official podcast, SPORTS YAPP, by inspiring guests to discuss sports, faith and life. Listen to the full audio of all his interviews on sportsyapp.com. Below are some highlights from Bryce’s interview with Chris Spielman, who is a former NFL All-Pro and All-American linebacker at Ohio State University. He is currently a college football analyst for ESPN. He lost his wife to cancer in 2009 and recently released a book, “That’s Why I’m Here, the Chris and Stefanie Spielman Story.” He joined Bryce to talk about their story and what to expect from the book.
Click here to listen to the interview.

BRYCE JOHNSON: How did going through the process of writing this book impact you personally?
CHRIS SPIELMAN: In a number of ways. I started writing it shortly after I found out Stefanie was terminal. It’s something that she always wanted to do, was put this story down on paper for the sole purpose of helping and serving others. And so when you make a decision to write a book like this and you hear news that your wife is terminal, you begin to reflect. You reflect on your life and you reflect on your journey through the cancer world. And so, everything was very clear to me as we put this down. Our whole mission was to put a book (out) about hope — hope through a diagnosis, hope through five reoccurrences and even hope after death. Hope as the Bible talks about that’s not a wish, but hope that is a promise.  Stefanie had no fear of death; her only fear was leaving her four kids behind.

BRYCE JOHNSON: How are the kids doing?
CHRIS SPIELMAN: I have four kids, three girls and one boy — a 9, 11, 15, and 18-year-old. They all have their unique challenges. Stefanie had the vision to leave a video for them where she was healthy. We watched that the day after the funeral. In that video she talked about their strengths, their weaknesses, what she expects from them…She talked about how she’d been praying since they’ve been born about their future spouses, that they would marry someone with a strong faith. But then she looked forward into the camera and said, “Listen to me, you don’t have to worry about me, I am in heaven. I’m with God, I’m at perfect peace. I’m in paradise. So never use my death as an excuse for anything, but motivation for everything that you do in life.”

BRYCE JOHNSON: Since her passing, how has your faith grown?
CHRIS SPIELMAN: I think all of us or anybody that’s listening to you, your faith continues to grow every single day if you work on it. I mean, we just can’t lay back and not continue to seek and search and find…My vision or what I think of is the day Stefanie died. I picture God standing there, arms wide open giving her a big hug. All people of faith want to hear: well done good and faithful servant. (God) takes her by the shoulders and turned her around and looked down on the world and all these lights are sparkling around the world and God says, “Look, look what you’ve done with the gifts that I’ve given you, including cancer.”

BRYCE JOHNSON: What can we expect from the book? What is the structure?
CHRIS SPIELMAN: There’s something for everybody. It’s a football book, it’s a cancer book, it’s a love story and they’re all kind of intertwined because it needs to because you need to know how I was and how Stefanie was and how we grew and how we handled the ups and downs. I think the essence of the book is this: it’s a verse I lean on every day. I Corinthians 16:13-14, be on your guard, stand firm in your faith, be men (and women) of courage, be men (and women) of strength. And above all do everything in love. And we have to be on our guard because we get hit every day. People that don’t think there is a spiritual enemy out there are naive. There is, so be on your guard. Stand strong in what we believe, have courage, have strength, and do it with love. Guess what? You’ll be able to handle anything that comes your way, trust me, I’m speaking from experience.

By Bryce Johnson

This column was published in the Sports Spectrum Summer 2012 DigiMag. Follow Bryce on Twitter-@sportsyapp.