LATROBE, Pa. - As soon as linebacker Sean Spence walked out of the Steelers locker room at Saint Vincent College on Monday afternoon, you could see the little extra spring in his step.
It was hard to hide the enthusiasm as he headed down the steps, down the hillside and to the practice field. Nothing could change his good mood, not even the grey skies and rain that almost tauntingly tried to ruin what was a perfect day for him.
But Mother Nature didn't stand a prayer on Monday. Nothing, absolutely nothing, was going to spoil this day for Spence.
"It felt like back to football," said Spence after practice, a simple statement that spoke volumes.
For two years, with the exception of a few practices last year, Spence has been a spectator after suffering what many thought was a career-ending injury his rookie preseason in 2012. Since then he has been fighting his way back onto the field, getting a slight chance last year before a finger injury set him back.
He took part in the team's offseason program, working during OTAs and minicamp. But that was 'football in shorts' as Coach Mike Tomlin likes to refer to it.
On Monday, he got his first taste of real football, putting on the pads and taking part in backs-on-backer drills along with everything else with his teammates.
Take a look at photos of the Pittsburgh Steeler's third day of Training Camp.
"It felt great," said Spence. "I was anxious, chomping at the bit. I was ready for back-on-backers just to see how my body was going to react, how I was going to react.
"It was hard sleeping thinking what I was going to come out here and do, and all of the emotions running around wild. I was just trying to keep peace of mind, not think about it, think about different things and just be patient."
He definitely has been patient. Spence was one of the most committed athletes you will ever come across in his effort to return to the field, always having confidence that he would be back even though it was tested at times.
"I wouldn't say I doubted it, but it was definitely tough," said Spence. "I cried myself to sleep sometimes at nights. It was tough watching the games, sitting in meetings and not being a part of the team or the game plan.
"I have sat out of football for two years. But I always pushed and kept my faith knowing I would be back out here again."