PSU loses D-line coach Spencer to NFL

It’s become accepted in recent years that Penn State is going to lose some assistant coaches — something that virtually never happened during the Joe Paterno era — but the concept is all still so new that seeing an elite-level assistant depart remains somewhat jarring.

As such, the news that broke Friday morning caught many Nittany Lion followers by surprise.

Defensive line coach Sean Spencer, one of the most valuable and respected assistants on the PSU staff, is leaving to coach the same position in the NFL with the New York Giants. The 49-year-old was hired by new Giants coach Joe Judge.

Spencer and seven other assistant coaches came to Penn State from Vanderbilt with James Franklin in 2014. All of those assistants are now gone, with the exception of current defensive coordinator Brent Pry.

Spencer also is the fourth assistant coach from the 2019 season to depart the program. Offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne left to become head coach at Old Dominion, wide receivers coach Gerad Parker left to become offensive coordinator at West Virginia, and offensive line coach Matt Limegrover was fired.

The biggest loss, by far, of that group is Spencer.

Nicknamed “Coach Chaos” for his highly energetic personality and coaching style, he oversaw a defensive line group — called the “Wild Dogs” — that year in and year out was the Lions’ best overall unit on either side of the ball.

“You know what, I just enjoy life, man,” Spencer told the Mirror last summer. “I come to work every day with a smile on my face. I’m fired up all the time.”

His infectious energy and compassion for his players made Spencer about as good of a college coach and mentor as you’ll find.

Franklin called Spencer “a passionate guy,” and Pry agreed.

“I say passion, it’s passion for his guys,” Pry said last summer. “He loves those guys. He’d do anything for them. He has constant conversations with those guys about things that need to happen on and off the field.”

While Franklin is used to hiring new assistants to replace departed ones, finding someone who can equal all of Spencer’s attributes could prove to be very challenging.

“Since I stepped on campus coach Spence has been like a father to me,” lineman Antonio Shelton tweeted Friday. “I can’t put into words how much he means to all of us, he’s the reason why we’re here. Without him, there is no us. Can’t thank him enough for all he’s done. This one hurts but I’m beyond happy for my OG!”

“Huge shoutout to my coach and mentor!!!” lineman Yetur Gross-Matos tweeted. “Fostered a true brotherhood and brought the intensity every day. Nothing but love and respect.”

Spencer didn’t coach linebacker Micah Parsons’ unit, but that didn’t stop the coach from making an impact on the young superstar.

“Some people are coaches and some people are fathers!” Parsons tweeted. “Coach Spence made me feel like I was one of his own children along with many other players he gave us laughs picked us up while we was down! One of realest out! Gave me first chance. Love you dawg until next time.”