Former Northern Illinois star running back Chad Spann is thinking about walking away from the game, he said on Thursday.
Spann, who suffered a torn Achilles while playing in the Canadian Football League last season, was back in DeKalb for the Huskies' final practice of the spring season and spoke with the team early Thursday morning. Spann said he was debating whether or not to return to the CFL next season.
"Leaning towards not going back," Spann said. "I'll be 28 when the season starts. I just recovered from the worst injury you can possibly get and I don't want to put my body through that anymore."
Spann had a decorated career at Northern Illinois from 2007-2010, including a standout final two seasons. In 2009-2010, he rushed for 2,326 yards and 41 touchdowns – setting the record for rushing touchdowns in a season (22) in 2010 before quarterback Jordan Lynch broke it with 23 rushing scores in 2013. His 49 career touchdowns are still the second most in program history.
The Mid-American Conference Offensive Player of the Year and the Vern Smith Leadership Award winner in 2010, Spann made the rosters or practice squads of five NFL teams – the Indianapolis Colts, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Jets and Houston Texans. He appeared in two games in that span, playing one contest for the Steelers in 2012 and another for the Texans in 2013.
After signing with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, he played in one game in 2015 – carrying the ball twice for 17 yards.
"I feel like I've proven myself – I accomplished everything I set out to," Spann said. "I played in the NFL, I played in the CFL, so I don't know if I have anything left to prove. Now the competitor in me wants to get out there and compete."
Spann, who said he has gotten into coaching at the high school level and skill development training, said he was in contact with former teammate Melvin Rice, who is in his first year as the defensive back coach for the Huskies. According to Spann, Rice suggested he stop by practice and Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey asked the former running back if he could talk with the players after the practice.
"It gives them a sense of everyone that has come before them," Carey said.
As for Spann, he said the players taking a knee in front of him was a reminder of himself during his playing days – with one difference.
"Except that we weren't in here," Spann said of the newly built Chessick Center, the Huskies indoor facility that opened in 2013. "We were out on the turf freezing our butts off. It brought back a lot of memories. It was exciting to watch these guys run around and play football."