By Steve Vedder

There was a time when Tyrone Spencer didn't necessarily see coaching football as part of his future.

Despite a standout playing career at Detroit King High School and later at Grand Rapids Community College and Wayne State, Spencer considered something other than football for a career following graduation from college. Maybe, he thought, it would be something in the psychology or counseling fields or perhaps even teaching. Spencer wasn't sure where he would land.

But after a friend recruited him into teaching sports in an elementary and middle school level program, Spencer admits he was hooked.

Four high school state championships later, it seems Spencer made the right decision.

Despite his love for football, Spencer, recently named as the new East Kentwood varsity football coach, said he didn't really consider coaching after he left Wayne State in 2006.

"I don't think so," he said. "But then I had fun in a 21st Century Program teaching sports. We opened up a youth center, and I became a flag football coach and that's where my love of football came from. I really found out I liked to coach and had a feel for it."

So Spencer plunged forward. He became a student assistant at Wayne State and then an assistant coach on Ferndale's freshman team before joining the Detroit King program in 2010. He became King's head coach in 2016, compiling a remarkable 82-23 record in eight seasons. His teams won state championships in 2015, 2018, 2021 and 2022. Two of his teams in 2019 and a year ago, made it to the semifinals. King won at least 10 games in six of Spencer's eight seasons.

Spencer said the same thing he found in coaching elementary school football, through all the success at Detroit King and now what he hopes for the East Kentwood program, hasn't changed. What he loves most about coaching is seeing youngsters become successful adults. It doesn't matter if it's adding to the more than 100 future college players he had at King or simply helping someone in their post-athletic life, Spencer said his priority for any of his players is achieving success in life.

"I love seeing the transformation of players," he said. "Doesn't matter if it's a little kid later becoming a star or helping someone out of trouble to become a good parent–that's what I want. It's about what people will say about you after leaving this earth.”

Spencer will be able to make this kind of impact beyond simply the football team, as his role in Kentwood Public Schools includes working with athletes in all sports, from 7th grade on up, to help them be successful, not only athletically, but outside of sports as well, including when they  eventually leave KPS.

"There is a deeper good of impacting kids and being able to reach their heart."

To accomplish that, Spencer said there is a process. First, a coach has to establish what Spencer calls a "culture." Whether it's establishing a seventh hour sports class as he did at King or commencing 6 a.m. workouts which he's done at East Kentwood, Spencer believes athletes need to be accountable. Spencer said much of his intended culture includes players developing a passion for the game, high-energy attitudes, stressing being on time and having well-prepared teams.

After incorporating that, Spencer said the goal will be developing competitiveness within the OK Red and later at the state level. Ultimately, Spencer wants his players either to be ready for the next level football-wise, or if they choose to end athletic careers, to become productive adults.

Spencer has no illusions that developing the culture and later fine-tuning it will be a walk in the park.

"It's not going to be easy but it's also not impossible," he said. "It can be done, but it is a process and we have to embrace it. It's all about having blind faith. We're just going to get it out there and let it go."

Spencer said one great advantage he sees at East Kentwood that wasn't necessarily the case at Detroit King is that there is already plenty of help available in the Falcon program. Whereas, for example, he basically ran the strength and conditioning program or also coached track at King, these positions are already stocked with quality personnel here.

"It's different than at King. I had different roles there but at Kentwood there are already good people that will help," he said. "It's kind of a 3D approach. We attack an athlete and what he can do, develop the athlete and attack their (attitudes). There are layers and if you go from the first level to the third, you're going to be better.

"The potential here is off the charts. It's like a small university and people here have been so supportive."