Meet the PSU staff: Defensive line coach Sean Spencer

Hometown: Hartford, Conn.

Family: daughter, Alysia

Education: Bachelor’s in political science, Clarion University

Playing experience: three-year starting safety at Clarion University

Coaching experience: 1996-97: Shippensburg, running backs; 1998-2000: Trinity College, running backs/passing game coordinator/defensive line; 2001-03: Massachusetts, defensive line; 2004: Holy Cross, defensive line; 2005: Villanova, linebackers; 2006: Hofstra, defensive line; 2007-08: Massachusetts, defensive line/special teams coordinator; 2009-10: Bowling Green, defensive line; 2011-13: Vanderbilt, defensive line; 2014: Penn State, defensive line

Why did you get into coaching?: “Where I came from, much like most of the kids in my neighborhood, I grew up without a dad. I grew up without him in my life, so I always felt like coaches had such a great influence on me in terms of helping to shape and mold me into being a man. I felt like I was always the guy in the neighborhood that everyone looked up to and who they could bounce ideas off of. I was always trying to get everybody together to play basketball at 8 in the morning until 6 at night. We might play football in the afternoon or some baseball. I was always organizing stuff, and I felt early on that people always followed my lead. When I realized I was done with football, the following spring I helped out at Clarion. The other coaches pulled me aside and said I would be pretty good at it.”

What is your primary coaching philosophy?: “Go hard all the time. I tell the guys to go hard or go home. I’m just busting their chops, but I think you’ve got to outwork people. I played Division II football and was always playing with a chip on my shoulder knowing I could play at a higher level. But these guys are at the highest level, and I feel like they should work harder than the person they’re going to compete against.You can’t feel sorry for yourself. You’ve got to go hard every time and maximize every single repetition. If you take a play off, it may be a play in the game that costs us. I also believe you have to understand the game of football. I probably talk to my defensive line about more things than they really need to know. But if they understand what the other players are doing, it helps them understand how important their role is to be where they’re supposed to be.”

What do you like most about being at Penn State?: “Just being in the situation where I am privileged to coach at Penn State is amazing. When I walk in the building every day, the history that has gone through here with Coach Paterno and other amazing players, it’s just tremendous to be a part of. Walking in here and over my chest I represent one of the top five football institutions in the country and that is special to me. Growing up I looked at people that worked here and said, ‘Wow, they work at Penn State.’ Now I realize that I’m part of the elite. I always wanted to be at Penn State, and I’m tremendously privileged to be able to work here.”

What is your best story or memory of James Franklin?: “This is how we recently got reconnected after Vanderbilt. I was at a clinic in Pittsburgh. He was speaking, and I was speaking that night. We saw each other in the lobby and we reconnected. The next thing I know, I’m driving him around to see his family in Pittsburgh. In the process of doing that, he was basically interviewing me the entire time. We’ve been friends for years, and this wasn’t a normal conversation. All these questions, we weren’t just hanging out, talking shop. His mind works all the time, it’s constantly go time. There’s not ever a situation where he’s not thinking of the solution or thinking of that situation to help make things better.”

– Compiled by Kristen Nelson