He’s part of a prestigious Cleveland, Ohio-area family that has a long history of public service. Like the majority of males in his family, John attends St. Ignatius High School, a highly regarded private school for boys known for excellence in academics, athletics and the performing arts.
“My great grandfather, my grandfather, my dad, all my uncles and cousins all went there,” John Spellacy. “It’s one of the best schools in Ohio.”
Attending St. Ignatius has afforded Spellacy the opportunity to play football for an Ohio legend in school alum Chuck Kyle, who has coached the Wildcats to a record 11 state championships and more than 300 total victories over the last four decades.
Kyle also coached Spellacy’s father, also named John, a talented linebacker recently named to the Marshall University Athletics Hall of Fame.
The younger Spellacy will follow in his father’s footsteps again, this time as a college football player with the East Carolina Pirates. Spellacy joined ECU’s recruiting Class of 2017 while on a visit to campus in late April.
A 6-foot-1, 285-pound center, Spellacy picked the Pirates over offers from Army and N.C. Central. He was also receiving interest from Bowling Green and Syracuse.
“They (ECU staff) first got in touch with me in early April,” Spellacy said. “I really didn’t know anything about East Carolina at the time. But the more I talked with their coaches the more I liked them. And the more they watched my film, the more they seemed to like me.
“So I visited there for their Elite Junior Day (April 9) and was offered. Then I went back two weeks later with more of my family members. I really liked it and felt at home. So I committed.”
The opportunity fulfilled a dream for Spellacy, who grew up hoping to play college football like his father.
The elder Spellacy starred for Marshall as its football program was finally overcoming the tragic airplane crash in 1970 that has forever linked that school to East Carolina. The Thundering Herd had lost to the Pirates on November 14 and were traveling back home when the crash occurred outside of Huntington, WV, killing all 75 people on board, including the team’s players and coaches.
Marshall was on the rebound in 1985 when the elder Spellacy joined the program as a middle linebacker. He would go on to record 392 career tackles (eighth on career list), 27 tackles for loss and seven sacks in a four-year career that was highlighted by the Thundering Herd advancing to the NCAA Division I-AA title game in ’87.
“My family has always had a strong connection to football,” the younger Spellacy said. “I played hockey when I was younger, and basketball. I also played baseball my freshman year in high school. I played first base and I was decent. But football was always the thing I loved the most. That’s why I eventually gave up baseball because I knew I wanted to play football at the next level.”
Spellacy made the St. Ignatius varsity football team as a sophomore. He’s played center and defensive line for the Wildcats the last two season and earned All-Northeast Lakes District honors as a junior.
The Pirates have recruited Spellacy to play center.
“I’m a true center,” Spellacy said. “I’d say my number on strength is quickness. I’m able to get around with my feet and I use good technique. I’m pretty strong, too, and I have the knowledge to read defenses to call out our blocking schemes.”
The Pirates used three different players at center last season due in part to injuries. Two of those players, J.T. Boyd and Christian Matau, are expected to return in 2016. But Boyd completes his eligibility following the 2016 season and Matau will be a senior in 2017.
Spellacy is the fourth player to make a verbal commitment to the Pirates for the Class of 2017 and is the first offensive lineman.