tampabay.com

One mighty big player

By STEPHEN F. HOLDER
Published November 13, 2006


Greg Spires

Position: Defensive end

Height, weight: 6-1, 265 pounds.

Age: 32

College: Florida State

Acquired: Signed as a free agent in 2002; a third-round pick by New England in 1998.

Career highlights: Was one of the Bucs' standout performers in Super Bowl XXXVII with a sack and two pass deflections; started 71 of past 72 games.

Career stats: 321/2 sacks, 313 tackles, 11 forced fumbles and 129 games.

Defensive end Greg Spires is not one to pull punches. Just ask the player whose face he once spit in. Spires sat down with staff writer Stephen F. Hol-der to share his firm views on everything from Florida State football to the White House to his complicated personal life.

You're a big basketball fan. If you had a choice, do you start a team with Kobe Bryant, LeBron James or Dwyane Wade?

I start with LeBron. He's younger, explosive, an all-around player.

You played at Florida State. There's been a lot of talk about Bobby Bowden and whether he should go out on his own terms. Where do you stand?

I feel like he should be able to go out on his own terms. But I think that we need a new offensive coordinator. I think they should have someone who is going to make better calls on offense and better utilize the talent instead of calling the same ol' dropback draw play. You know that play I'm talking about? But he brought in his son (Jeff Bowden), and it's hard to fire your own son. I think they're kind of stuck with him, but I think he needs to do what's best for that program.

Did you follow the election news much?

Not really. I know we have a new governor.

We do. What about Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld? What did you think about his resignation?

I was very surprised about that. The president said he was going with him until the term was over, and then he turned around and basically fired the guy. I think he's a hypocrite for saying that.

Defensive lineman Julian Jenkins says you're his landlord.

Yeah, he's renting a townhouse from me.

Is he a good tenant?

Absolutely. I don't have any problems from him. The neighbors love him. One of my neighbors called me (Thursday) night and said, "Julian Jenkins is a great guy!" He's cool. I like him. He needed a place to stay before the season started, and with rookies, they don't know if they're going to make the team. So he made the team, and he needed a place. So we did it.

So I understand you were a running back in high school.

Yep. I was an offensive tackle, a running back, a defensive lineman and a linebacker - all in four years.

How serious were you about running the ball long term?

I was real serious. I got recruited as a fullback to go to Florida and a lot of other colleges. But I wanted to be a linebacker at Florida State, and you know what we do to linebackers at Florida State: turn them into defensive linemen.

Are you one of those guys who has to eat to keep your playing weight up?

Not at all. I actually am the kind of guy who has to keep the weight off. I can go out and eat a meal and gain 10 pounds. My favorite meal is breakfast, and I don't eat between workouts because I can't do that. So I don't eat too much.

What's your biggest weakness, food or otherwise?

Probably saying no to my little girl (Leila). She gets everything. She turned 4 in October, and if she asks me for something, it's hard for me to say no. I just have to learn how to stand up to her. I don't let her get away with murder. But it's the little things, since I don't see her as much as I would like. (She lives in Massachusetts.) When I do see her, it's like, "The world is yours!"

What has she squeezed you for? She's only 4.

She likes to go to the mall, the movies, get her nails done, everything. She doesn't want money. With her, it's, "Daddy, let's go here. Let's go there." And her biggest thing is when we go to a restaurant, she has to sit in a booth because she likes to climb all over it.

Word is you dish out a lot of abuse on the field. What's the worst thing you've ever done to a guy?

Hmmm. Probably spit in a guy's face. This was in college walking back to the huddle. I think we were playing N.C. State. I don't remember how it went, but that's probably the worst thing I've ever done to a guy.

Tell us about your family?

I'm the oldest. I have a sister who is a year younger, and I have a brother who is 18 and on a full football scholarship at Iowa State. Then I have a sister who just graduated from high school and is in her freshman year of college.

Do you like playing the big brother role?

It can be hard. It's almost like with my little girl. I have to say no to them sometimes. But they depend on me, and I like helping out. It feels good to take care of your family.

You said a while back you were going through a messy divorce. Has that been resolved?

Actually, no. I'm still going through it. We have to go to court in April.

Not a fun experience, obviously.

No. Not at all, and I can't wait until it's over.

But there's some good news, too.

Yeah. I have a new girlfriend, and we've been together for a while now. That's going well.

So life is good?

Yep, life is good.