Amari Spievey moves past personal tragedy and back into Detroit Lions' starting lineup
By Justin Rogers | firstname.lastname@example.org
on October 18, 2012 at 5:27 PM
ALLEN PARK -- Usually, when a player loses their starting job, it's because someone is better.
Sometimes, it's a little more complicated.
During this year's training camp, safety Amari Spievey plummeted down the Detroit Lions' depth chart, falling behind veterans Erik Coleman and John Wendling. While the coaching staff contended they needed more consistency from the third-year pro out of Iowa, Spievey was battling something far more personal.
Last October, just one day before the Lions defeated the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football, Spievey's cousin, Chauncey Hardy, was killed in a bar fight on the other side of the world where he played professional basketball for Romanian club CSS Giurgiu. He was 23 years old.
Spievey and Hardy were close, more like brothers than cousins. Born one month apart in 1988, they grew up together in Middletown, Conn. where they played team sports at Xavier High School.
"He was an amazing athlete. It was effortless," Spievey said in an interview shortly after Hardy's passing. "I owe so much to him because I learned so much from him."
The tragedy understandably rocked Spievey. He sat out against the Bears, but came back the next week and didn't miss another game that season.
Football gave Spievey a place to direct his focus and energy, but the grief came rushing back this offseason when he returned home to Middleton.
"It didn't hit me real hard until I got home, driving by his house, not being able to do the things we used to do together," Spievey said. "It was real tough and it carried over to camp."
Spievey said his coaches were understanding.
Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, who lost his father last year, was supportive, patiently allowing Spievey to go through the grieving process.
"He's smiling, he's working hard, so I'm excited about him getting back out there," Cunningham said.
After seeing the field just a handful of defensive snaps the first two games this season, Spievey played 49 against the Tennessee Titans in Week 3. A groin injury sidelined him the following week against Minnesota, but after the team's bye, he started his first game this year against the Philadelphia Eagles, replacing Coleman at safety.
"I believe everything happens for a reason," Spievey said. "I was going through some tough times. It gave me a chance to get my mind back and just have fun again."
In addition to regaining his starting job at safety, Spievey saw time at nickelback against the Titans and Eagles. A converted college cornerback, he relishes the opportunity to play some man coverage again.
"I actually miss covering, but I've got to get more reps at it," Spievey said. "It's a lot tougher, way tougher, than in college."
Coach Jim Schwartz would prefer he didn't have to use Spievey in those situations.
"I think the biggest thing with Amari, now being in his third year, he's very, very comfortable in the scheme," Schwartz said. "He knows his way around the scheme, not just from what the safeties are supposed to do, but what a nickel does and what a corner does. He's got that kind of flexibility because he played corner in college.
"I think it was more of that, but it's nothing that we're looking to go forward with unless it's an injury in the game."http://www.mlive.com/lions/index.ssf/20 ... ive.com%29