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Titans RB Tyjae Spears: "I Have the Greatest Gift in the World, and That's My Dad"


NASHVILLE – Margene Spears was cooped up inside his Louisiana home, recovering from a knee scope after a staph infection.

While he recovered, those around him went on with their daily lives.

Spears remembers one day when his older children raced to go outside.

One child stayed behind.

"Two-year-old Tyjae," Margene Spears recalled with a smile. "He didn't want to leave me. As a two-year-old kid, with his older brothers wanting to go outside and play, he was barely able to talk and was like, "Daddy, can I do anything for you?" He wanted to get me water. He wanted to help me.

"Ever since then I just noticed he was different."

Roughly 20 years later, Titans running back Tyjae Spears smiled when hearing his father had retold that story.

Spears, set to begin his second NFL season, said his father has looked out for him since the day he was born.

And, on Father's Day weekend, he thinks about how lucky he's been.

"In my life, I look at a lot of different things, and sometimes I think I don't have this or that," Tyjae Spears said. "But I have the greatest gift in the world, and that's my dad."

Tyjae Spears was born in 2001 in Hammond, Louisiana. He was raised in Ponchatoula, in a big family with five brothers and three sisters. Tyjae was the baby for a long time, until one of his sisters was born.

Even at a young age, Margene Spears said there was something special about his son, as a youngster, and as an athlete. After Spears first began playing in Pop Warner, in fact, some used to tell the elder Spears his young son would be playing on Sundays one day.

"They were right," he said with a smile.

Margene Spears said he did his best to steer Tyjae out of trouble, and keep him involved in sports, football in particular.

While other kids in the neighborhood lost their way in the streets, Margene kept Tyjae focused, and he became a star at Ponchatoula High School.

"Football is what kept him calm," Margene Spears said. "When football was going on, he was good. When football season stopped, I had my hands full."

Tyjae Spears ended up playing college football at Tulane University, not too far away.

It allowed Margene Spears to continue going to all his games.

But as young Tyjae emerged as a star, things weren't always easy. After suffering a torn ACL in high school, Spears suffered another torn ACL in college.

A part of him wanted to give up football. Margene Spears wouldn't let him.

Along the way, dad got to repay his son for his good deed as a kid.

"After my (ACL) surgeries, my dad was the one making sure I had pillows under my leg, had ice in my ice machine," Tyjae Spears said. "He was the one helping me out of the bathroom, making sure I wash off. He's always been there."

Their relationship today is as strong as ever. Tyjae Spears said he talks to his dad every day, sometimes five times a day. Margene Spears went to 18 of 20 Titans games last season, including preseason. He made the drive 8 ½ each way to Nashville for home games.

Tyjae Spears, after wearing 32 in his rookie season, has switched to No.2 this season. Spears wore No.22 in college at Tulane, but that number is sacred in Tennessee (Derrick Henry). The No. 2 works perfectly, since Margene Spears was born on February 22 (2/22).

When talking about his son, Margene Spears beams when thinking about the young man he has become, then about the player he is on the football field. This fall, Tyjae Spears is expected to have a much bigger role alongside running back Tony Pollard on a team looking for production following the departure of Henry. During his rookie season, Spears showed flashes of stardom.

Margene Spears also smiles when thinking about the adversity his son has faced in his life, and that he's been able overcome it.

"I'm so proud of him," he said.

He laughed when telling a story about teen-aged Tyjae and one on of his brothers joining him for work one day. Margene Spears does carpentry work, remodeling houses in Louisiana.

"He went with me, and I tried to get him to hold sheetrock over head," Margene recalled. "He'd be complaining, whining. I told them both of you play football, taking hits. But you can't hold a piece of sheetrock over your head?"

Tyjae Spears remembers that day.

"It was after a heavy squat day," Tyjae recalled. "Do you know how heavy sheetrock is? It's heavy, plus you're holding it over your head."

Margene Spears said he hopes his son knows how proud of him, so tells him daily.

Tyjae Spears said he can tell from the look on his dad's face. He knows his dad changed some things in his own life to be more present in his.

He wants to repay him every day of his life, and as he grows older.

"My relationship with my dad, it makes me see what real love, genuine love is," Tyjae Spears said. "And as days go on, I always wish I could be a better son to him in different ways.

"When I have kids in the future, I'm going to try to be the same, but it's going to be hard with the great example he's set in my life."

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