CLASS OF 2019: Football great Spencer Havner to be inducted into Nevada Union Athletics Hall of Fame
Spencer Havner simply could take over football games, and there was nothing the opposing team could do about it.
“During his senior year there were times where he flat out took over a game,” said former Nevada Union football head coach Dave Humphers, recalling one such game against Del Campo. “They jumped on us and had a 21-0 lead, and they drove down and were about ready to score again. Spencer made a one-handed interception on about the 5 yard line and ran it back. The next time Del Campo drove down the field he got another interception way down deep in our territory. We ended up scoring 50 unanswered points and blowing them out, but Spencer just took over the game.”
With his ability to make split second decisions coupled with exceptional athleticism, Havner was a game changer at linebacker.
For his efforts on the gridiron with Nevada Union and beyond, Havner is being inducted into the NU Athletics Hall of Fame April 27.
“It’s a huge honor,” said Havner, who also lettered in basketball. “Just the history of the sports program, especially when our class was going through there, it was just such a cool thing to be a part of. Then to be remembered like this later on and be in a class with a bunch of other outstanding individuals, it’s a huge honor for me.”
Havner’s path to being one of the best linebackers in NU history started on the offensive line where he played as a freshman and a sophomore. It wasn’t until the summer before his junior season that he transitioned to linebacker. A move that brought him great joy.
“I thought I had hit the lottery,” he said. “I got to play in space, be an athlete and make some plays.”
What followed for Havner was jaw-dropping plays, eye-popping stats and plenty of accolades.
During Havner’s two year run as a starter at linebacker on the varsity football team, he tallied 232 tackles, 18 sacks, 12 interceptions and multiple defensive touchdowns. In his senior season, Havner grabbed seven interceptions, which ranks second all-time at NU. He earned All-Capital Athletic League honors twice (1999, 2000), All-Metro honors twice (1999, 2000), made the Cal Hi Sports All-State Second Team (2000) and was the CAL Defensive MVP (2000).
“He became an absolute force when he moved into that linebacker position,” said Jefferson Heidelberger, a teammate of Havner’s and fellow Class of 2019 inductee. “It was incredible to watch that transformation and he never looked back … He ended up being the heart of the defense.”
The Miners won the CAL title in both Havner’s junior and senior seasons, and reached the City Championship Game in 2000.
“The action,” said Havner of what he enjoyed most about the linebacker position. “You’re standing five yards back from the line of scrimmage, you got all the big guys in front and it’s literally a split second you have to make a read, make a decision and just go. After that decision there’s not a lot going on in your head. It’s such a fun position to play. I love it.”
As for what made Havner and the rest of the Miners successful on the field — hard work and confidence.
“First it was the amount of work that we all put in to be such a good team,” he said. “Then it was the confidence we had in each other and our coaches. We just knew we were going to win every single week. We had that mentality and that confidence in our team and that’s what stuck with me throughout the rest of my life.”
PLAYING BACKER FOR THE BRUINS
After graduating from Nevada Union in 2001, Havner went to the University of California, Los Angeles on a football scholarship. After redshirting his first year, Havner went on to start at linebacker the next four seasons with the Bruins. He was also the Pac-10 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year, a Freshmen All-American, earned Pac-10 Honorable Mention in 2003 and was an All-Pac-10 Second Team Selection in 2004 and 2005.
Havner started 48 games for UCLA, which is second all-time at the school, and amassed 402 tackles along the way, which ranks fourth. He also had 11 career interceptions and four defensive touchdowns, which is a school record. Havner also received the Red Bednarick Outstanding Leadership Award in 2004 and 2005. He graduated with a degree in history.
Surprisingly, Havner was not drafted by an NFL team after graduating from UCLA, but was signed by the Washington Redskins. He later made his way to the Green Bay Packers where he was a member of the practice squad. That’s when he’d be asked to switch positions again. And again, it came with great results.
“Here I was working my butt off in practice, like I would in high school.” recalled Havner. “I was playing the first team defense and I was the scout team tight end, and Matt Flynn was the scout team quarterback. He and I got on the same page and started tearing up the first team defense.”
That’s when the Packers tight ends coach took notice. Soon after, Havner made the switch to tight end and in 2009 he played in every game for the Packers, scoring five touchdowns along the way, including one in the playoffs.
“I had a lot of help from Aaron Rodgers,” Havner said. “He’d call a play in the huddle and it would sound like a foreign language. Then he’d say ‘Spence, run a corner,’ and I’d say ‘OK, cool, got it.’”
Havner was also a member of the 2010 Packers team that won Super Bowl XLV.
“It’s something you dream about and it was really incredible,” Havner said. “That specific team in the 2010 season, we’d be behind in games and I had that same feeling I had at NU. I knew we were going to win. I knew Aaron would come out and just run down the field and score seven points possession after possession … It was so much fun and so cool.”
After scoring a touchdown in 2009, Havner followed tradition in Green Bay and leaped into the crowd at Lambeau Field. Havner’s leap into the sea of green and gold fans had a few surprises for him, though.
“I spiked the ball, and I was so excited, I’m screaming my head off, and then I start to walk back to the huddle as I’m programmed to do. Then Greg Jennings comes over and smacks me on the head and says, ‘Go do the Lambeau Leap,’” recalled Havner. “I run over there and jump up, sit on the top of the fence there and I’ll never forget this, I land in this guy’s lap and he’s got a cup of beer and these yellow cotton gloves that are beer soaked. So, one guy fish hooks me through my helmet and into my mouth with those beer soaked gloves which was disgusting, and a guy on the other side spills a beer on my lap on accident. Others are slapping me on the head and I’m yelling and trying to get this guys finger out of my mouth. When I got out of the stands, I was like ‘That was fun, but it was terrible at the same time.”’
HARD WORK PAYS OFF
Havner’s last season in the NFL was in 2010. He currently lives in Auburn and works as a sales account manager.
Havner said he’s grateful for the coaches he had at Nevada Union, including Humphers, Gary Sharpe and Bruce Kinseth. To this day, Havner still utilizes what he learned on the gridiron at Nevada Union.
“The ability to persist through adversity,” said Havner, noting the summer and early morning training sessions that were paramount to the football team’s success. “Just not being afraid to put in the time, put in the work, because it pays off.”
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email email@example.com.
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