Spielman to host first annual Gridiron Classic for charity


Formaer Massillon Washington and Ohio State standout Chris Spielman

The first annual Spielman Gridiron Classic – benefitting the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research – will be held over the weekend of Sept. 5-6 in the Columbus area.

We have more from the press conference.

The first annual Spielman Gridiron Classic – benefitting the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research – will be held over the weekend of Sept. 5-6 in the Columbus area.

The two-night event will feature a pair of high school football games. On Fri., Sept. 5, Columbus DeSales will host New Albany. One night later, Gahanna Lincoln will host Cleveland Glenville. Officials and coaches from all the schools as well as Chris Spielman and event organizers met for a press conference Wednesday at the Creekside Center in Gahanna.

“As we talked with Chris and Stefanie about this, we discussed how this would be a good fit and a good thing,” said Kent Zanon, Great Lakes Region director for the FCA. “We talked about the purpose and how this could become an annual event that is held here in central Ohio. Things just fell together.

“The purpose of the Spielman Gridiron Classic is to have an annual high profile high school football game in central Ohio that creates community awareness for FCA programs and breast cancer research while raising funds as well. We also want to create an event that’s fun for the whole family and benefits the entire community of central Ohio.”

Bob Hendrix is serving as the co-event chairman for the FCA.

“We came up with this idea three years ago and we went and talked with Chris,” Hendrix said. “He asked me how we would do this. This is the end result of a lot of work by a lot of people.”

Spielman, the former Ohio State and NFL great now with ESPN and WBNS-AM (1460) in Columbus, said he is excited to be involved with an event that incorporates high school football.

“I love high school football,” said Spielman, who was a schoolboy star at famed Massillon Washington in the early 1980s. “My father still is a high school football coach at 72 years old. He started coaching at Canton Central Catholic, then over to Canton McKinley, Canton Timken, then at Massillon Washington and now at Dr. Krop High School in Miami.

“I don’t know what my life would be without high school football. I’ve been in locker rooms and going to two-a-days since I was 5 years old. To be back involved with high school football, that means a lot to me.”

Spielman said he is a believer in the mission of the FCA.

“I thought, ‘What is the best thing we can give to our kids?’ And I try to give them this every day,” he said. “It’s balance – balance mentally, balance athletically and balance spiritually. The FCA provides that balance to high school kids who may not have that opportunity anywhere else.”

Because he broadcasts Friday night games for ESPN, Spielman will likely miss the DeSales-New Albany game. But he plans on making the Gahanna-Glenville game on that Saturday night.

Spielman noted how his wife will celebrate a 10-year anniversary in July of being a three-time cancer survivor. In that time, they have worked together to raise $5 million for cancer research.

“The money is being used for research,” Spielman said. “There are no proceeds going to overhead. We are making a difference in people’s lives. Stefanie would be the first one to tell you – and this is how strong her faith is – that none of this would be possible without God. Cancer has been one of the biggest blessings in our life because it has given us an opportunity to serve.”

Coaches and athletic directors from the participating schools were also introduced.

DeSales athletic director Mike Asbeck said his school is excited to host the first evening’s events.

“This is something that had been discussed for the last couple of years,” Asbeck said. “When we were approached about it this year and it became something a bit more concrete and something that was going to happen, we were very excited to become involved with the event. Coach (Ryan) Wiggins and I talked about it and we knew this was a win-win situation.

“It will benefit FCA and cancer research. Our community is excited about it. The last two years we’ve played New Albany and had some very exciting games. We are very excited about it. We’re happy to be a part of it.”

The DeSales-New Albany game has become an annual rivalry. DeSales won last year’s match-up 23-20 on its way to a 12-1 season, reaching the Division II regional finals. New Albany was 7-3 a year ago.

Assistant coach Bubba Kidwell represented New Albany.

“We are honored at New Albany just to be associated with the Chris Spielman Classic,” Kidwell said. “It’s always a special week for us when we play DeSales. Just a few years ago, New Albany couldn’t do something like this. You wouldn’t have talked about New Albany in the same breath as DeSales or Gahanna or Glenville. In a few years, we’ve come a long way and we’re excited to be involved in this event.”

Glenville coach Ted Ginn Sr., who has dealt with cancer himself in recent years, said he is excited to be involved with such a strong cause.

“It’s an honor to be here today,” Ginn said. “We are really excited about playing in this game, this Classic. More importantly, we are excited about the purpose of it. (Glenville assistant) Matt (Chinchar) and I are big FCA fans. Any time you can have an opportunity to be in something with your children that has a purpose like this, that is exciting.

“To be involved with Chris Spielman and the cancer cause, that’s huge for us because we always talk about service. It all blends with us well at Glenville. The FCA helps hold our program together.”

The Gahanna-Glenville game will pit a pair of Division I qualifiers from a year ago. Gahanna ended up 7-4, while Glenville finished 10-3 following a loss to eventual state runner-up Mentor (41-40) in a regional final.

“It’s going to be a great game,” Ginn said. “We’re excited because it’s going to be the first time we’ve played in Columbus. That’s exciting for me. Anybody here who are Buckeye fans? For us, it’s like leaving home and coming home when we come to Columbus.”

Gahanna athletic director Justin Sanford joked that the Lions will have to come up with a way to contend with Glenville’s notorious speed.

“In the process of our facility renovation project and putting in the (FieldTurf), when we started talking about this game and playing Glenville we are still trying to talk to Sprint Turf, the company that put it in, and see if there is a way to grow our grass a little longer and slow them down,” Sanford said.

“This is a tremendous event. The purpose behind it is even more important.”

John Snoad was hired as Gahanna’s new coach, replacing the retired Mike Lanza. Snoad, formerly the head coach at Napoleon, also joked about how he learned about the game with Glenville.

“After I was hired, I was sitting in Justin’s office and that’s when he told me about the game – not during the interview process,” Snoad said, eliciting laughter from the crowd. “Then he told me who we were playing. But I have had the great pleasure to meet Coach Ginn and talk to him at various clinics over the years.”


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