Player Primer: DJ Spell
Herrin’s 2017 WR DJ Spell is a 3 sport athlete that is flying under the radar and wants to prove to college coaches he has what it takes to succeed at the collegiate level. We also talked schools he’s kept in touch with, his upcoming visits and how he leads on and off the field.
You can find DJ on Twitter @Djspell12.
Wt: 200 lbs
Commitment status: Undecided
LPI: You guys finished the season very well at 9-2, but fell to a very good Mater-Dei team in the 2nd round of the playoffs. Now that your season is over, what are you going to do to take your game to the next level?
DS: I will be playing basketball at the varsity level. I have won Southern Illinois Coaches Association and All-Conference in both football and basketball. A few of my football teammates will be joining me on the hardwood. As seniors, we want to go out with a bang. I am a three sport athlete (track) and will be working out 4 times a week to build more strength and not lose too much weight. I will also be continuing my crossfit regiment to build more inner core strength.
LPI:You currently don’t have any offers, but are trying to prove to college coaches that you have what it takes to play college ball. What are your greatest strengths or what can you bring to the table for a college football program?
DS: I am a physical receiver that can pin point the ball at the height of the pass as well as be that possession receiver that will run direct and specific routes. I am a hard cover for defensive backs since I am 6’4 with over a 7 foot wing span. I am faster than most linebackers when I line up as a Tight End so I usually lose them when I run great routes. I saw double teams 70% of the season but still managed to lead the team in receptions and yards. I really concentrated on my blocking this season so I believe I can be very versatile for a college program. I was used as a decoy a lot of the time since I saw double coverage and enjoyed it because my teammates saw success. I played corner, safety, and even kick return the past 2 years. I have started on varsity since I was a sophomore and was 1 game away for competing for a state title in 2014. I just don’t want to play in college, I want to dominate. I want to be a matchup problem no matter where I am on the field. I am hungry to show that a kid from a 4A program can be an elite athlete. I guess I have a chip on my shoulder because I feel I might be overlooked. I am so eager to prove that I belong!
LPI: Offer or not, which schools have you kept in contact with the most? Or which schools have shown interest in you?
DS: McKendree and Drake University usually text me at least once a week encouraging me to be successful on the field. On my NCSA account, I have 21 schools that follow me and most email me updating me on their success and wishing my luck during the season.
LPI:Where have you visited most recently and do you have any planned visits coming up?
DS: I went to a few unofficial visits this summer and during the season. I visited Tuskegee University since my dad works there. I attended their camp and I love their coaches and senior quarterback. I also attended McKendree’s camp and felt I made a statement at both. They were very helpful in teaching me things that I used during the season. I visited Drake and McKendree University and was able to attend their respective home games. I plan on visiting a couple of schools once the season is over to get a feel of the environment outside of football. I want to check out the classrooms.
LPI:On or off the field, how do you demonstrate leadership?
DS: First and foremost, I have to mention that I learned my leadership skills being a Boyscout. I am still active in mentoring other young scouts. I have been a proud Eagle Scout since I was 16, so those skills that I learned carried over in sports. As a football player, I have been able to run my own routes based on coverage for the past two years. I worked very hard and watched a lot of film to be able to read defenses and DB tendencies. I mentored our young receivers during and after practice; showing them how to run precise routes and teaching them when to catch with your hands versus catching with your body. As a basketball player, I have been blessed to have started since my sophomore year and that senior class embraced me and taught me a lot. So I have been able to speak with the younger back court and show them the tendencies of the opposing guards as well as their coaches. Off the field, I am very active in my church and community. We constantly volunteer at events especially on holidays.
LPI:Who are some of your other teammates that you believe have a chance to play at the next level, but may be getting overlooked by college coaches?
DS: My quarterback, Jake Downen was a stud this year. He had to wait until his senior year to get his shot and all he did was set the passing and touchdown record for Southern Illinois. He had to be in the top ten in the state, but I think is somehow overlooked. Herrin has always been a running team, so for our coach to have faith in Jake and throw the ball, shows how special he is as a player. Jake has a twin brother, Ty Downen, who also played receiver and defensive end. Ty and I are close to be tied in catches and yardage and we complimented each other very well. Myself, Jake, and Ty are all 6’4 and 200 pounds, so we were probably a nightmare for defenses in the River to River Conference. Our other senior receiver, Jake Hartline, is 6’1 and was extremely dependable. When I was double teamed, he made the most of it and destroyed the defenses we faced. Our running back, Drew Merrill, had to end the season with over 800 yards rushing and double digit touchdowns. He is a 6 foot bruising, one cut back with a lot of speed. He ran over everyone in his way and never went down on first contact. But the main cog of our defense, was John Vaughn Jr.. This is the defensive star that should be highlighted! For two years in a row, he had double digit sacks and tackles for loss. John was our edge rusher that destroyed every tackle that he faced. Period! He is 6’0″ 220 lbs with track star speed. He lives with me and everyday he puts in work for the team. He watched film, lifted weights, and ran every day. College coaches must watch his Hudl film, he was unbelievable. He saw so many double and even triple teams and still disrupted offenses. He would have shredded the team’s sack record of 17 if he didn’t miss a game because a frustrated kid cheap shotted him out of bounds causing a concussion.