By now, almost everyone has seen one of the clips of the Northwestern strength coach that go viral on Twitter seemingly every Saturday. His name is Alex Spanos, and he’s become the most famous strength coach in all of college football thanks to his relentless energy and the tight-fitting polo shirts that flaunt his massive biceps in any weather.
When Northwestern makes its first appearance in the Big Ten championship game this weekend, the FOX cameras inside Lucas Oil Stadium will assuredly find their way toward Spanos at some point or another. Once again, the country will get a glimpse of what the Wildcats’ players see every day: a man who lives and breathes his job of pumping up the team in everything it does.
Spanos first gained internet attention when reporter Larra Overton tweeted out a picture of him during Northwestern’s road loss to Wisconsin last season.
After that, the camera crews began to find the stocky guy on the sideline more and more. A mid-November game against Minnesota with inclement weather was a national introduction to the fact that Spanos’s attire remains consistent in any temperature.
One week later in Champaign, an FS1 reel of his pregame antics blew up on Twitter and a star was officially born.
The most important thing to know about Spanos is that he isn’t performing for the cameras. All the clips you see are just the way he is all year long, according to the players and coaches that he works with. His energy never stops, and the players love him for it. Spanos told the Chicago Tribune last year that he wakes up at 4:30 every morning, eats up to 40 grams of protein for breakfast and works roughly 80 hours per week.
The son of Greek immigrants, Spanos played high school football at Maine South in the western Chicago suburbs. He spent time at multiple local community colleges before playing linebacker at FCS Robert Morris University for three seasons. Though he only became a viral sensation last year, Spanos has been with Northwestern since 2015, working under head strength coach Jay Hooten. The 5-foot-10, 26-year-old’s official title is Assistant Director of Football Performance.
During a 2018 season in which Northwestern went 8–1 in the Big Ten, Spanos’s internet fame has continued to grow. A video of his pregame dance moves against Wisconsin was liked more than 60,000 times.
In frigid weather in Iowa City, Spanos’s polo—he insists it’s not a smedium, by the way—stood in stark contrast to Pat Fitzgerald’s more appropriate outfit.
One week later in Minneapolis, it was even colder. To no one’s surprise, Spanos was still rocking the polo and getting after it.
Regarding his outfit choice in cold weather, he told the Tribune there’s a reason for it.
“If I’m warm and comfortable, I might not be on point. I have to be engaged in the game and keep the sideline enthusiastic and passionate. If I’m wearing something uncomfortable, I’m always on my toes.”
There are three main sub-categories of Spanos content. There are the sideline clips during the game. There are the pregame warmups, when he’s still rocking a different polo, one with the sleeves cut off. My personal favorite might be the entrance videos. Whenever Northwestern’s suit-clad players get off the bus or arrive at the locker room, Spanos is there to get them pumped up. He’s been doing it since 2015.
The videos are fun, of course, but Fitzgerald has emphasized how important the strength staff of Hooten, Spanos and Joe Orozco is to the success of the program. Their main task is to help each individual player improve their strength and athleticism in the weight room and beyond, but the role Spanos and Orozco play as hype men has real value too. Fitzgerald calls them the team’s “secret sauce.”
If you’re tuning in to the Big Ten Championship game on Saturday, don’t be surprised to see a couple shots of a guy with huge biceps going nuts on the sideline as Northwestern tries to win its first outright conference title since 1995.