Hitting big time – Former Miner among Butkus Award finalists
It was just a little more than a year ago that Spencer Havner shared some of his gridiron goals with The Union, outlining a few things he’d like to accomplish in his college football career as a UCLA Bruin.
“By the time my career here is over, I’m going to be the No. 1-rated outside linebacker in the country,” Havner, a 2001 Nevada Union graduate and a redshirt junior at UCLA, “and I’m going to be drafted high in the first round.”
So far, so good.
On Thursday, the Downtown Athletic Club of Orlando, Inc. announced Havner as one of the 12 semifinalists for this year’s Butkus Award, which is awarded annually to the best linebacker – inside or outside – in college football.
“That’s a big honor,” said Havner, a 6-4, 236-pound inside linebacker. “That’s pretty sweet, huh? It’s pretty awesome.
“I wouldn’t say I expected it. It’s something that would be really amazing if it happened. But I’d rather win a bunch of games.”
Heading into Saturday’s showdown against No. 7 Cal, the Bruins had done just that, running off four straight wins. But Havner, who recorded five tackles in the 45-28 loss (See “California dreamin'” B4), said once the Golden Bears got rolling, the momentum never came back the Bruins’ way.
“I think we were just a couple of plays away,” Havner said. “Like when it was tied 14-14, if we had made some momentum plays, I really think could have got the game in our favor.
“But just before halftime, they got the momentum back.”
Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers hooked up with tight end Garrett Cross for a 26-yard touchdown with 17 seconds left in the first half. Rodgers then added two more touchdown passes before the Bruins finally found the end zone again in the fourth quarter.
Rodgers racked up 260 yards on 19-of-29 passing, including four scores.
“This conference, I believe is one of – if not the – best. The ACC and SEC are pretty good, too,” Havner said. “To play Cal, Arizona State and USC, it’s pretty tough. We’ve still got Oregon, too, and they’re always a great program.”
Havner expects another tough assignment this coming Saturday, when the Bruins travel to Tempe, Ariz. for a showdown with Sun Devils and their All-America-candidate quarterback Andrew Walter.
But don’t expect Havner to shy away from the spotlight of such top-caliber competition. If anyone was still wondering if the former Miner could carry his weight with the nation’s elite, the answer is obvious.
Havner was the nation’s leading tackler through Oct. 9 and now has 76 stops – including a career-high 17 against Illinois – on the season, including 5 1/2 for a loss and one sack. He also has returned an interception 52 yards for a touchdown and blocked a field goal attempt this fall.
In his first two seasons, he racked up 178 tackles, including 18.5 for a loss.
He was chosen earlier this year as one of the team’s captains, was named Pac-10 defensive player of the week earlier this month and is one of three Bruins to grace the cover the UCLA media guide.
But perhaps the moment that first opened Havner’s eyes to the fact that he had “made the big time” was when he sat down to play teammates in EA Sports’ College Football video game.
There, on the screen, Havner saw himself – or at least a digital version of the real thing. Even though he’s not named and the game lists his hometown as Merced – the NCAA does not allow the use of actual athletes’ identities in such products – there’s no mistaking who is wearing No. 41.
“It’s pretty cool. We get kind of competitive about it,” he said. “We say stuff like ‘I’m rated a 92 (on a scale of 100) and you’re only an 85.’ The guys who make it really have no idea what they’re talking about, but it’s still really fun. It is amazing to see yourself in something like that.
“It usually comes out the day before camp starts. We went to a store nearby and got an early copy so we could play it throughout camp. I’m pretty good, because I’ve played it so much.”
The fact that he’s made a name for himself on the national scene – with another year’s eligibility left at UCLA – might have raised some eyebrows back home in Nevada City, but it’s been his gameplan all along.
“These are all goals of mine that are starting to unfold,” he said. “This is the plan I had going to college. I guess it just might be more of a surprise to other people.”
Matt Logue (Bear River, ’02); Sacramento State -The junior linebacker (6-2, 210) had six tackles and returned a second-quarter interception 14 yards for a touchdown, helping Sac State (2-4, 1-2) to a 31-17 win over Weber State. Logue is second on the team with 39 tackles with six stops for a loss, including three quarterback sacks.
Kent Sheridan (Bear River, ’00); UC-Davis – The 6-foot, 4-inch 247-pound senior defensive end had one solo tackle in the No. 21 Aggies’ 22-19 loss to No. 10 Stephen F. Austin Saturday. The loss was the first for UC-Davis (5-1), for which Sheridan has 16 tackles and 2.5 sacks this season.
Jefferson Heidelberger (Nevada Union, ’01); Montana – The 5-10, 175-pound senior caught one pass for 38 yards, returned three kicks for 40 yards and recorded two tackles, in a 31-28 win at Eastern Washington Saturday. Heidelberger leads the Grizzlies (6-1) in receptions (38), receiving yards (612) and touchdown catches (5).
Matt Tyrell (Bear River, ’01); Idaho State – The senior finished fifth in 23:40.99 at the 7.6-kilometer Southern Utah University Invitational Saturday. Tyrell led the Bengals – and most of those competing – in the 8K Notre Dame Invitational on Oct. 1, when Tyrell took third place in 24:48, helping the Bengals to a sixth-place finish among 26 competing.
Lauren Zealear (Nevada Union, ’03); Santa Clara – The 5-foot, 7-inch sophomore midfielder/forward had an assist on the game-winning goal of the Broncos 1-0 win over host San Francisco Sunday. Zealear has one goal and one assist on the season for Santa Clara (9-4-2).
Ashley Bello (Forest Lake Christian, ’01); San Francisco – The 5-11 senior middle-hitter had eight kills, two blocks, one assist and one dig in the Dons’ 3-1 loss at home to No. 25 San Diego Saturday. Bello has 91 kills on the season for San Francisco (9-13).
Jackie Coudert (Nevada Union, ’01); Sacramento State – The 5-8 senior outside-hitter had nine defensive digs Saturday in the Hornets’ 3-1 loss to Idaho State in Pocatello. Coudert has 16 kills and 22 digs on the season for Sac State (15-5).
Amber Donovan (Forest Lake Christian, ’02); Westmont College (Santa Barbara) – The 5-9 junior setter had 20 assists and two digs in Westmont’s 3-1 loss to The Master’s College Saturday. Donovan lead the Warriors (6-13) with 558 assists (9.3 per game).
Elena Schmidt (Nevada Union, ’04); Fairleigh Dickinson University (Hackensack, N.J.) – The 5-11 freshman middle-/outside-hitter had five kills and four blocks in the Knights’ 3-2 win over St. Francis (N.Y.) Sunday. Schmidt leads the team with 199 kills (3.26 per game) and is third among the Knights (6-12) in digs (135).
Have we missed anyone? If you know of a former area athlete now competing in college, please contact Sports Editor Brian Hamilton via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 477-4240.
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Hank Sowell’s introduction to the game of golf came early as a set of clubs was among the gifts he received on his very first birthday.