Published: August 21, 2013
It wouldn't be entirely accurate to say Troy Calhoun hasn't named Air Force's starting quarterback. He just hasn't named the starter on offense.
The quarterback of the defense, free safety Christian Spears, was the one starter Calhoun has readily identified.
The Falcons expect every bit of leadership out of that spot as they do on the other side of the ball.
"He understands his particular job quite well, but to be a leader you have to be able to instruct and teach and guide the others," Calhoun said. "He'll help the others not only getting lined up, but especially on third downs or maybe when you're in an extended drive or late in a game Christian Spears has that kind of heart and determination that will be nothing but an asset to our football team."
It's fitting that Spears has thrived at a spot where leadership qualities are paramount. He would like to one day be a teacher. He also served this summer on the leadership team for the courses during basic training.
"I'm definitely a people person," he said. "I like to help people and I like to pull the best out of people. I feel like that's what instructors do in general - teachers from pre-K all the way through college."
Spears was a quick study at safety last season. A corner during his time at the prep school and his freshman season on JV, he shifted to safety out of necessity on the first day of practice last August.
"I like safety a lot better," Spears said. "You get the whole scope of the field. You get to run downhill, play over top. You're the last line of defense."
Though he didn't have time to gain the weight he would have liked to add some heft to the position, he started all 13 games and was fourth on the team with 91 tackles. He also forced a pair of fumbles, intercepted a pass and had 2? tackles for loss.
What was perhaps most noteworthy was the ease in which, as a sophomore, he mastered the new position that requires so much knowledge.
"He's a guy that's got to know his job and the jobs of the 10 guys in front of him to be able to make corrections on the fly," said defensive coordinator and secondary coach Charlton Warren. "As things change, he's the guy that gets us in the right defense. So he's a teacher, he's a leader and he's the quarterback of the defense for us."
Spears has also had the time to work with strength and conditioning coach Matt McGettigan to put on some weight, and he's at about 195 pounds to start this season as opposed to about 180 last year. He said he can feel the difference in leverage he's able to create when making tackles.
Spears was the only Falcon to garner preseason recognition from multiple national publications, as both Athlon and Lindy's made him an early all-Mountain West second-team selection.
"I really don't look into the preseason stuff, though I did see some here and there," Spears said.
"If anything I want to go far beyond what they expect of me. But at the end of the day, I'm playing with the 10 other guys on the field and we're trying to get wins and bring trophies home; that's the main priority."