After the Steelers drafted linebacker Vince Williams in 2013, linebackers coach Keith Butler was asked about the future of Sean Spence. In the 2012 preseason Spence suffered a severe knee injury, one which left many questioning his future. Butler was among them.
"It will be miraculous if he does come back," said Butler in response to whether Spence could return to the field in 2013. "It will be miraculous if he comes back next year. We are going to take a chance on him and see if he can come back. To me, he is worth every bit of that."
Fast forward to the 2014 draft and in the moments after the team selected linebacker Jordan Zumwalt in the sixth round. Spence's name came up again.**
Take a look at some photos of Sean Spence during the offseason workouts.
"**From what I've seen on the field, I know I said about a year or so ago that it would be miraculous if he came back, and I hope he proves me wrong," said Butler. "It is getting really close to being miraculous. He looks real good to me. We will see how the knee holds up when he starts hitting and things like that. Right now I'm real encouraged by the way he looks. He is such an exceptional young man and you hope that it works out for him, and I think it will."
Spence, who missed the entire 2012 season and part of the 2013 with what was beyond a serious knee injury, was cleared to practice last October. While the knee felt good, he suffered a finger injury that required surgery and put him back on injured reserve. "When the finger injury happened and I found out I had to have surgery on it, I went home and I cried," said Spence. "I cried myself to sleep. I was so mad because I got back to where I wanted with the knee and to have a finger broken and need another surgery, it was so upsetting.
"But it was a blessing in disguise. It gave me more time to heal, more time to learn. The knee held up pretty good last year when the bullets started flying in practice and that was my first time having contact in a year. It felt good on my knee. It didn't bother me much. This offseason I had more time to train and rehab and going through the offseason workouts I felt good."
Spence has used his time wisely. He has been a constant at the team's offseason program, working out in the weight room, running with his teammates, and doing everything his teammates are doing. He can't wait to take it to the next level, which includes OTAs, minicamp and then training camp.
"I am very anxious to be back practicing with the guys and not separate from them doing rehab," said Spence. "I can't wait to be coached again, to be part of the meetings, when coach is talking and you feel like he is talking to you. Just all of things I missed make me appreciate it even more now."
Every Steelers player, the coaches, trainers, and team staff, are all pulling for Spence. They want to see that miraculous return more than anything for a guy who is not only considered to be a fantastic football player, but even more a special, fantastic person.
"It's been a long journey. It's definitely changed me," said Spence. "It made me look at the game differently, appreciate it more and I am just excited to get back to playing again.
"People are going to doubt you no matter what. I don't pay attention to the doubters. I am just going to do what I can and that's keep working. I always kept faith. I knew if I continued to trust God and have faith I would get through it. There were a lot of bumps in the road but I am starting to see the light now."