When Domenic Spencer began playing football at age 4, he didn’t know how far the sport could take him. Motivated by naysayers who said he was too small to play, the Dallas, Texas, native set out to prove them wrong, and that audacity helped take him further than he ever imagined.
“I didn’t know it could take me this far,” the 5-foot-10, 229-pound player said. “I just wanted to be a high school legend. That’s all I wanted to be.”
One of Spencer’s mentors who helped try to get him to that level was his former defensive line coach at Skyline High School, Harold Robertson.
Despite being a two-time all-state player, Spencer still had his doubters in the media and within his personal circles.
“I just remember [Robertson] telling me to have fun,” Spencer said. “I just hear him always say, ‘Go out there, and have fun and prove people wrong. You’re still proving people wrong.’ I’ve been proving people wrong my whole life, and I still have to do it.”
Robertson died from complications of pneumonia Jan. 23, 2015. He was only 35.
Spencer remembers his former coach by an ornate, inked inscription reading Robertson’s name on his outer right arm and his phrases, “C’mon, Buddy Roo!” and “C’mon, Slickback!”
“I’m still overcoming it,” Spencer said. “I still think about [him] a lot. I always say this: ‘Now my coach can really watch over me in Heaven.’ Because he was in the press box in high school, so he always used to watch over me.
“Now I feel like he’s in the ultimate press box watching over me. So now, if I mess up on the field, I just hear him say one of his old classic lines, and I just laugh on the field and I’m like, ‘All right, coach Rob. I got you.’”
He coached Spencer and his Raiders teammates to a 14-1 record and a No. 4 ranking in the state of Texas and No. 24 in the nation during the middle linebacker’s senior season in 2011. The team’s only blip was a 28-24 loss in the class 5A state semifinals.
“When that last game was over, it hit me. I cried that whole night. [I thought], ‘I’ll probably never play football again, I’ll probably never see a field again,’” Spencer said.
After receiving just one offer during his senior season, Spencer was slowly waking up from a dream that lasted the majority of his life.
That was until one Thursday night, long after National Signing Day had passed, when he received a phone call from a man with a hardened New York accent.
“It was amazing because I knew that this was another four to five years of playing football again,” Spencer said about the call with UCF head coach George O’Leary. “It’s a dream come true.”
During Spencer’s freshman season in 2012, he began to get home sick before a second family of current H-back Cedric Thompson and former linebackers Terrance Plummer and Troy Gray began to take hold.
“[Spencer] plays with a chip on his shoulder,” Thompson said. “He’s been wanting to play for a very long time now, and he finally has his opportunity and he’s trying to make the most of it.”
Now, Spencer is the starting middle linebacker for the Knights. In his first three seasons, he recorded just 11 tackles in limited playing time, but leads the team this season with 42 through six games.
“Domenic Spencer is one of the most experienced players on the football team,” O’Leary said. “He has helped us in many ways, including on defense and on special teams, and has helped make the younger players understand some of the situations they go through. He’s a vital player to this year’s team.”
After successfully proving naysayers wrong his entire life, Spencer is close to crossing football’s proverbial finish line. He never imagined, “A little dream brought me this far.”
Victor Ng is a Senior Staff Writer for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @_victorT24.