Chatting with a Super Bowl champ

March 2, 2009

by Stephen Wiblemo

It isn’t often that you get the opportunity to pick the mind of a Super Bowl champion – unless you happen to know one.

And while I do not know one personally, Deputy Drew Scherber does.

Scherber is the school resource officer at Dassel-Cokato High School, and the instructor of the fifth-grade D.A.R.E. classes.

He also happens to be friends with Matt Spaeth, a tight end with the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers.

Spaeth graduated from St. Michael-Albertville, and went on to play tight end for the Gophers.

In 2006, he graduated from the University of Minnesota, and was given the John Mackey Award as college football’s top tight end, two things he is very proud of.

Spaeth was in Cokato Friday as a guest speaker at the D.A.R.E. graduation that day, and after things had settled down, and he finished signing autographs for almost all of the 180 graduates, he agreed to have interview with me.

Since I didn’t want to bore him with the typical questions about winning the Super Bowl, I kept things interesting with a variety of questions about my favorite topic – sports, and more specifically, Minnesota sports.

Spaeth excited about Twins territory upgrade

Since he grew up in Minnesota, I wanted to know what teams he was a fan of, and which teams he still followed.

Much to my pleasure, I discovered he was a long-time fan of my favorite club, the Twins.

Strangely enough, though, he and I disagreed on one thing. While I enjoy the charms of watching the Twins play at home in the Metrodome, Spaeth says he finds it boring.

Instead, he prefers to watch the game at home and listen to the comforting voices of Bert Blyleven and Dick Bremer.

That may change for him, however, as he, like me, is excited about the Twins opening their new outdoor stadium in 2010.
“I’m pumped. I love the Twins, their my favorite Minnesota sports team, but I never really liked going to games their to watch them,” he said. “To me, if I’m going to watch a game I would rather watch it on TV then go there. Maybe with this new stadium, it might make it a little more exciting.”

I also asked him how he felt about the Twins signing third baseman Joe Crede.

Twin fans have long been begging for a General Manager Bill Smith to sign a third baseman with some power at the plate, and he finally did a week ago.

Crede, a former dark-sider who has spent the first nine years of his career with the Chicago White Sox, signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal Feb. 21 with the Twins, that could elevate into $7 million depending on performance.

While he has shown power at the plate, and the ability to hit 30 home runs in a season, some are sceptical because he has also been inconsistent at times due partly to back injuries that have plagued him recently.

Spaeth, looking at this deal as a business major, and a fan, thought it was a win-win situation for both parties.

“Looking at his contract, and the way it is worded, it looks good for the Twins,” he said. “We don’t have a lot invested in him, and he’s a great player, but his big thing has just been injuries.

“If he gets his plate appearances, he’ll be a good solid player, and then he’ll get his money, and it will work out for everybody.”

Playing at Heinz Field, the Super Bowl, and his career

Spaeth was drafted by the Steelers in 2007 with the 13th pick in the third round, and in two season he has racked up 177 yards on 22 catches, plus three touchdowns.

He had one reception for six yards in Super Bowl XXXXIII.

Although his career is just starting, he has already experienced something many players with long careers never have.

Unfortunately, he hadn’t received his ring yet, so I didn’t get a chance to take see that.

I asked him if he has been to Disney World yet, and he hadn’t, and apparently isn’t planning on it.

“I think, usually only the Super Bowl MVP goes to Disney World,” he said. “It’s funny, we all sign contracts saying that if you win the Super Bowl MVP, and the camera comes up to you, you have to say ‘I’m going to Disney World.’”

While the Super Bowl was a memorable moment in his career, there was another memorable, and less impressive, moment he remembers, and that was the infamous “Muddy Night Football Game.”

This was the game in 2007 when the Steelers hosted the Miami Dolphins in a Monday Night Football game.

Heinz Field, where the Steelers play at home, had a rough few days before the game, as it had hosted some high school state championship football games, and a home game for the University of Pittsburgh.

All that wear-and-tear on the field, combined with days of rain that had soaked the field, made for some of the worst conditions a game has ever been played on.

Spaeth remembers it well.

“I don’t think you could play in worse conditions in back-yard football,” he said. “It was just like mush, and there was standing water. It was like running through a pasture.”

The game was an exercise in futility, and ended with the Steelers winning 3-0.

One of the most memorable moments of the game was a play when a punted football came down and stuck straight into the mud like lawn dart.

This game garnered some national attention for the conditions of Heinz Field, but things have been much better according to Spaeth.

“It never got that bad this year,” he said. “Last year it got really bad, but we played in a lot of bad-weather games.

Going back to campus, and missing Glen Mason

Although he plays in the NFL now, Spaeth says he still likes to return to the campus of al ma mater, but things are different now.

Spaeth was a Mason recruit, and talked fondly of his former coach.

“Yeah, coach Mason and I were seniors together,” he said.

After 10 seasons, and a 64-57 record with the Gophers, Mason fired in 2006, the same year Spaeth graduated, and replaced by current head coach Tim Brewster.

Mason’s firing was disappointing to Spaeth.

“I thought he was a good coach. He took a Gopher program that was down and made it very respectable again,” he said. “I think people got really antsy, they wanted it to go to the next level. They think it is easy to win 10 games, and win Big 10 championships when it’s not. It is one of the most elite conferences there is.”

Although he misses Mason, he still visits the Gophers, and knows Brewster, but things are much different.

“It was sad to see him go, and it’s sad when I come back,” Spaeth said. “I still go down there, and I have a relationship with coach Brewster now, but it is different . . . It’s kind of all new faces, it’s not the same.
“It’s tough when it is your coach. People think it was just him, but it was all of his assistants, the whole staff is gone.”

No sympathy for the Vikings

The last question I asked Spaeth was more of plea.

Even though he grew up in Minnesota, Spaeth says he was never a die-hard Vikings fan, and now he is even less, despite the fact that many of his hometown friends and family are.

I asked him, if the Steelers made it back to the Super Bowl again next year, and the team they faced was the Vikings, would he have any feelings of remorse, or pity for the deprived Vikings fans back at home. His reply was chilling.

“Absolutely not – zero,” he said. “I would have no remorse, and I would probably play even harder.”

Oh well, as a Vikings fan, I can say with confidence that Spaeth probably has a better chance of winning his second Super Bowl than Minnesota does of winning its first.