This week's Sideline Report is with Painesville, Ohio, native and Kansas junior left tackle Jeff Spikes.
Jesse Newell: Do you remember the moment you decided to come to KU?
Jeff Spikes: I do. Actually I was on another recruiting visit, and a prior coach, Ed Warinner called me and he said, ‘I’ve made a transition to Kansas football, and we’re in the Big 12, and we’d like for you to come.’ At that moment, I realized, ‘Big 12 football is where it’s at.’ And that right there was when I decided to come.
JN: Where were you at? What visit were you on?
JS: I’d rather not say. (laughs)
JN: Just so they don't know that they failed, right?
JS: Oh no. They did a great job. It’s just, things seemed to fit better for me here.
JN: You remember your first day on campus?
JS: I do.
JN: What was it like?
JS: I came a week later. In Ohio, we graduate a couple weeks after the southern schools. But everybody had friends, and I was just the weirdo. (laughs) The big weirdo.
I always talked on the phone. I had my little Bluetooth. And I just talked and talked and talked. Because I hadn’t been this far from home and was by myself with nowhere to swim, nobody close. So my first day on campus was foreign to me. And I was foreign to everybody else. I was different.
JN: So who talked to you first? Who friended you first?
JS: Isiah Barfield and Steven Foster.
[Ed. note — Isiah's the one in the middle. And it's a cool pic by Nick.]
It was a break, and I couldn’t go home, because it was a short break and I lived so far away. But they were getting in this little bitty, old Mitsubishi car. A two-door car. And Isiah and Steve Foster were in there, and they were like, ‘Hey, yo. You want to go get something to eat?’ And I was like, ‘I ain’t got no friends. Why not?’ Ever since then, we’ve been good friends.
JN: Where’d you go?
JS: Steak 'n Shake.
JN: How was it?
JS: It was pretty good, but I haven’t been back since.
JN: So help me picture of this. You’ve got a big guy walking around campus. Did you have the Bluetooth on the whole time?
JS: I did. I had a Bluetooth on and I had my phone in my pocket, and I always tried to stay with my phone. I’ve got a big family. We’re very close. So talking to them just made me feel comfortable, even though I was in a foreign area. So, (my teammates) were just like, ‘Who are you talking to?’ but I was on the phone.
Or they were like, ‘You’re always talking on the phone and didn’t want to talk to anybody.’ I acted weird. I don’t think I did, but to them (I did). You know, everybody from here is either from Texas, Kansas or Oklahoma, and I was the only guy from Ohio — even the only guy from the northeastern area. So I just seemed weird to them. But we got past it. They understand me now, who I am and who they are.
JN: So you felt like an outsider for a while?
JS: Pretty much. I still kind of do, but I’m cool with myself. And I’ve got my little group of friends that understand me, so I’m not worried about it.
JN: What’s something interesting about you that not many people know about?
JS: I’m a very family-oriented guy. I’ve got four brothers and three sisters, an aunt. Without them, I don’t think I would be anywhere. I don’t think I would be happy without one of them in my life. That’s common to know I have that big of a family, but it’s crazy how close I am to them. I expect to talk to them every day, and if I don’t talk to them for a certain amount of time, it throws me off personally.
I try to talk to them every single day. I try to talk to my mother to see how her day’s going. I talk to my godfather. I talk to my brothers and sisters. I’m not the oldest one, but they do look up to me in that sense that I’m one of the older brothers, and I’m far away.
JN: Was it tough leaving your family in Ohio?
JS: It was definitely tough. I was really close. I am still close to them. It was just tough to know that I won’t be around to see them grow up. I knew that back then, but now, I really realize it.
They’re going to prom and junior prom and going to high school, and my sister started walking when I came. It’s just things I miss like that. I had a little nephew ... he cried the first couple times I would go home, because he was like, ‘Oh my God. This is the biggest dude I’m ever going to see.’ But we got past it, and I still try to stay close.
Every time I go home, I’m in the house. I make sure I’m there, so whenever somebody’s walking around, they’re talking to me or seeing me there. I want them to see my face.
JN: What was your favorite game since you’ve been here?
JS: The Missouri game.
We were down, and the pass from Todd Reesing to Kerry Meier was the best moment of my life. It was. It was like ... I don’t know. I couldn’t even explain it. It was like, maybe, the first time you’ve seen fireworks. It’s like, ‘Wow, this is real? Does it really exist? Does something this beautiful exist?’
And when that pass happened, it was like, ‘This is what we have practiced for every single day. This is what we live for.’ It’s that feeling. That feeling was amazing.
JN: Did you get to see it? Were you on the ground?
JS: I was on the field, and I was blocking somebody. As soon as I saw the pass go up, and I saw he caught it and just ran into the end zone ... all I did was stop, throw my hands in the air and was like, ‘Thank you, Jesus. Thank you.’ It was an amazing feeling.
JN: Do you tell people that was your best moment ever?
JS: Oh yeah. That was the greatest moment ever. Like, the greatest moment, the greatest feeling. I was just happy to be a part of it, to be honest.
There’s a lot of younger guys now who are like, ‘I watched that game,’ and it was exciting for them, knowing they were coming to Kansas. But to know that I was there and I was a part of it, and I was on the field at that moment, is just amazing. It was a great feeling.
JN: What was your favorite TV show growing up?
JS: Cartoons. Boomerang (TV channel). I would say Boomerang. The Cartoon Channel. I’ll watch Tom and Jerry, The Jetsons, the Smurfs. Everything. Looney Tunes. I just love cartoons.
JN: You still watch them?
JS: I do. Every day. I don’t really watch too much regular TV. You don’t have to focus, but it’s entertaining to me. Not in a kiddie way, but I still enjoy watching cartoons.
JN: Do people give you crap about it? Or are you too big?
JS: They can’t really do that. Because I know, one of my best friends, he still watches Dragon Ball Z.
And that’s Anthony Davis, No. 30.
He’s got DVDs of Dragon Ball Z. I don’t have DVDs of cartoons, but I definitely watch them. Like I said, we know each other, and we crack on each other for everything. But they’re going to have to accept that.
JN: What’s the toughest part about KU?
JS: Originally, the toughest part was just learning the game of football, and then driving to get that mentality that you’ve got to play every play for that play. And I say that in two ways, in the fact that, if you messed up the last play, you’ve got to continue to fight through the next play. You can’t worry about the last play. Then you’ve got to also realize, this play right here, you’ve got to play like your last play.
For me, overall, that’s been the biggest thing is actually just learning the game of football and trying to play every play like your last play, or have that mind-set. And also trying to forget the last play so you can get better.
JN: What is the best meal that you can cook? Are you a chef?
JS: My family’s pretty much the chef. But I can cook. I can do a little bit of something. I’ve been learning to cook an omelet. I cook a mean omelet right now.
JN: An omelet?
JS: An omelet. I whip it up and put the meats in it and the cheese. I’m not a vegetable-eater, but I’ll put some green onions in there. Ham, turkey, bacon ... whatever I have. I really like spicy foods, so Polish sausage, things like that. Crack three eggs, cheese. Just whip it up.
JN: Did you have to tell the coaches about your Achilles injury in the offseason last year?
JS: Yeah. Whew, it was stressful. I don’t even know how to explain it. It’s like you broke your mother’s last China plate, and it was passed down from generation to generation. That’s how I felt. I was like, ‘I don’t know if I should tell them I was doing this or I told them I was doing that or I should tell them I’ll be OK.’ I didn’t know what to tell them. I just had to break the news, like, ‘I messed it up.’
JN: What are you most looking forward to this year?
JS: I’m looking forward to just playing the game. Like that feeling when we come out, we warm up, and the crowd is getting in the stadium. Then as we go in the locker room, we get our motivation. We look at each other in the eyes, like, ‘We’re about to bleed today. We’re about to grind today. We’re about to win today.’ Then we come back out, and the crowd is just ready to see us.
I’m looking forward to that moment, because it’s a goosebump feeling. Like Jake Sharp told me, after he left, he always came back to every game the season after he left. He was like, ‘I miss it so much, just playing in front of this many people and getting that feeling when you come out. It’s something you can’t find doing a 9-to-5. You can’t find it really doing any other aspect of your life, because this is what it is now.
I want to live that up as much as I can, because I know eventually, there will be a time that I won’t get that feeling. I’m just trying to learn to soak it in, because this is all we got. Twelve games, and trying to go for 13.