By Shaun DePasquale
A name to keep an eye on for the 2015 NFL Draft class is definitely Sacred Heart University’s Keshaudas Spence. Although not a household name, and you won’t find him among anyone’s list of top 2015 running backs, Spence has that right mix of bulldozing size and graceful speed that intrigues NFL teams.
Checking in at a robust 5’10 and over 230 pounds, Spence has been clocked as low as 4.6 in the 40 yard dash. His skillset brings to mind a running back from the 2014 class that caught my eye before he had ever started a game- Coastal Carolina’s Lorenzo Taliaferro. It remains to be seen whether Spence has a meteoric rise up NFL draft boards in his future, like Taliaferro, but one thing is for sure- he has a drive to succeed that is required of the successful NFL backs. Spence has a truly inspirational story that is certainly worth a few minutes and a cup of coffee.
The only child of Kimberly Broglin and Dean Albert Spence (Dean would not migrate from Jamaica to the U.S. until his son was 10), Keshaudas would take his name from a heart surgeon named Keshaudas Pahjua, whom brought his father back to life after he was stabbed in the heart in 1992, the year Keshaudas was born. Spence started playing football at the age of nine after being introduced to the game by his grandfather, joining the Boston Raiders in Roxbury Massachusetts. Keshaudas always found himself playing with the older kids as a youngster, due to his size.
“I was 110 pounds by the time I was nine years old.”explains Spence.
“Due to my weight I was never able to play with the kids in my age group. With my weight not slowing down, I was no longer allowed to play Pop Warner.”
Unfortunately, a tragedy would shape Keshaudas for the rest of his life. At the age of 14, he was faced with the unthinkable idea of losing his best friend- his grandfather.
“I found out my grandfather had been diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer. We were in the hospital as much as possible, and as he was slowly dying, all I could think of is how he was going to be gone forever. And facing that disease, he just kept cracking jokes and trying to make me smile. He would ask me why I was crying, and I’d tell him it was because my best friend was leaving me and I would never have him back. He reassured me that he was not leaving me.. that he would be by my side throughout my entire football career, until I make it to the NFL. Ever since then, that has kept me motivated and determined to fulfill my dreams.”
Once Spence entered high school, he joined the West Roxbury Raiders as a running back on the junior varsity. By the time he was a sophomore, he was starting at linebacker. Spence would then transfer to a nearby private school- Catholic Memorial, but did not make the cut at linebacker. After being moved to the defensive line, Spence took off, with 12 sacks and over 100 tackles, earning All-Conference honors. (Spence was coached at Catholic Memorial by former New England Patriots DL Brent Williams). As a senior, Spence racked up another 10 sacks and another 100 tackles, while also playing fullback.
But when it came time for college recruitment, Spence realized that there isn’t a wide market for defensive linemen standing 5’9 and 230 pounds. This would be where Keshaudas’ story took another fateful, and nearly tragic, turn. While attending a friend’s graduation party that summer, Spence found himself in the crosshairs of a fight.
“At the end of the night, a fight broke out in the middle of the street. A few of my friends were involved so I hopped in and tried to stop the chaos before anyone got hurt. That person ended up being me. I ended up being stabbed twice in my back, once by my pancreas and once by my right hip. I remember my shirt being wet and warm, and all I could think was “oh God, I’ve been stabbed.” Luckily a few friends pulled up and took me right to the hospital. And little did I know that I’d be in the same hospital room that my grandfather passed away in. All I could think about was that I was going to die in the same room. I started crying and praying to the Lord in hopes that I would survive and still be able to pursue my dream of playing professional football. Soon after, they were able to clean the wound, calm me down and reassure me that I was going to be ok, and all due to the strength in my lower back muscle. The knife stopped inches away from my pancreas, which would have caused life-threatening internal bleeding.”
After receiving a new lease on life, Spence headed to prep school, committing to the Taft School to play running back. That season Spence would go on to rush for 850 yards and 8 touchdowns. Offers started coming in from schools such as Villanova, Stony Brook, Fordham, Maine, Rhode Island and Vanderbilt. But when Spence was forced to withdraw from Taft, only one school stayed loyal- Sacred Heart and it’s head coach Paul Gorham. Sacred Heart would offer a partial scholarship, with the promise of a full ride if he stayed on the straight and narrow. As they say, the rest is history.
After rushing for a combined 1,266 yards with 13 touchdowns in his first 2 years at SCU, Spence absolutely exploded as a junior in 2013, running for 1,669 yards with 13 touchdowns, earning North East Conference Offensive Player of the Year Award along the way. Among his honors in 2013, Spence would break the school’s single season rushing mark of 1,339, averaging a gaudy 6 yards per carry. And if you ask Keshaudas, the best is still to come.
“As you can see, I am a running back that gets better with time, even though the position was fairly new to me. I finally feel that I have the hang of the running back position, and my goals are to continue to improve, put up even better numbers and get this team deep into the FCS playoffs!”
Keshaudas Spence.. One of the most inspirational men I’ve had the chance to talk to, and a pretty good running back too.
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