Nelson Spruce Still Flourishing on the Football Field

Chase Howell

Even after multiple injuries and setbacks since he left CU, Nelson Spruce is still doing his thing. The hands haven’t gone away.

The record-setting receiver at Colorado recently embarked on a new journey. He participated in the first season of the XFL, which ended up being cut short due to COVID-19, playing for the Los Angeles Wildcats.

“I think it overall exceeded my expectations,” Spruce said. “I had done the AAF last year. And the football part was good. But coming from that and doing that and in the XFL now, you can see the league and operations were way better planned out. Way better executed and they had kind of a better package around to get the players better and the product that was on the field.”

The star receiver wasted no time showing, despite the injuries, he was still the same receiver. In Spruce’s first game with the Wildcats, he caught 11 passes for 103 yards. In his second game, he had two touchdowns.

The Wildcats’ offensive coordinator was Norm Chow. A man that had recruited Spruce to UCLA out of high school.

“One thing that I was kind of looking forward to going into this league was working with Norm Chow because he was someone I liked coming out of high school,” Spruce said. “I thought I was going to end up at UCLA, not Colorado. He was at UCLA and was recruiting me hard. And I don't know something ended up happening where I didn't end up actually getting an offer. So I ended up at Colorado.”

Spruce remained in contact with Chow throughout his college career, when CU would play Hawaii (where Chow moved on to after UCLA), and then into Spruce’s professional career. So even before everything was set in stone, Chow knew he wanted Spruce to play for him.

"I think it was even before he got hired for the position with LA, he's like, ‘Give me a call, if this ends up happening we will do everything we can to get you here,’ and that ended up happening,” Spruce said. “So I knew he was going to kind of find the best way to utilize what I do. And we've done that a lot building up to the first game so it wasn't really a surprise.”

Besides the on the field stuff, two things that really impressed Spruce about the XFL was the way they marketed the league and their players, behind marketing genius Vince McMahon. And the way his team was able to bond.

“It is a lot different than the NFL in the sense that like NFL everyone just like on such a different level,” Spruce said. “You have guys making league minimum and many of you guys making 30 million a year. And some guys are like 21 and then some guys are 30 something with families. But kind of in our situation, everyone's more kind of on a level playing field, like everyone's making the base salary, everyone's kind of in the same situation where (the NFL is) not.”

Spruce tweaked his knee before the season ended so he has been rehabbing that while living at home with his parents during the quarantine. He has still been getting fieldwork in when he can. But this has also given him some time to reflect.

Spruce kept a close eye on the Mel Tucker situation. Spruce and Tucker built a relationship and communicated often so when Tucker left, it left a bad feeling in Spruce’s stomach.

“I guess the one thing I was kind of scratching my head out was the way like a few days leading up to when he was going public with all these statements about how he committed to the program and everything,” But Spruce wasn’t at all surprised. “It happens. I'm never surprised when I see stuff like this in this game.”

The man who broke over 40 school and conference records still enjoys visiting Boulder every so often. His goal is always to attend one game in Boulder a season and the game when CU plays in LA, either USC or UCLA. He still believes in the program because of the man making all of the decisions.

“I think it all starts with Rick George,” Spruce said. “I know Rick, he was there when I was there. He's a man and I know he'll do whatever he can to get the program back rolling again.”