Takeo Spikes is an intimidating figure.
It’s not just his 20-inch neck, either. The former Auburn linebacker made a storied 15-year NFL career out of crushing hits, creative sack celebrations and leading every defensive unit he was ever on.
It’s one other distinction, however, that sums up Spikes’ career.
219. Spikes appeared in 219 regular season games without a playoff appearance. That’s the most in NFL history.
Spikes grew up in Sandersville, Georgia and attended Washington County High School, where he was a standout football player. Spikes was named “Mr. Football” in the state of Georgia as a senior.
He went on to star at Auburn, where in 1997 he led the Tigers in tackles with 136 and an appearance in SEC Championship game. Auburn would lose to Peyton Manning and the Tennessee Volunteers.
Spikes was drafted in the 1998 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. He played every snap with a high-motor, similar to Junior Seau or J.J. Watt today. For Spikes, working in the NFL every day was enough of an adrenaline rush.
“Just playing in the arenas,” Spikes told ESPN’s Dan LeBetard in a 2012 interview, “knowing that you’re modern-day gladiators. Walking in the arena and everybody is chanting for you. To be able to go out, make big plays and the crowd chants your name, that’s impressive.”
Only once did Spikes record less than 70 tackles in a season, and that was due to a season-ending injury during his stint with the Buffalo Bills. He was a two-time Pro Bowl selection and a two-time All Pro.
His career NFL statistics are eye-popping: 1,423 tackles, 29 sacks, 19 interceptions and 15 forced fumbles.
As impressive as that is, what’s even more impressive is that Spikes produced those league-leading numbers with a weight on his shoulders.
Spikes dedicated his entire career to his father shortly after he passed away.
“My father was a good man. Really showed me the work ethic … taught me to feel like you’re not entitled to anything,” Spikes said. “You know I figure if I can live my life just as he did, even three-quarters of the way he did then, you know, I figure I’ll have a pretty successful life.”
“I think it’s just a testament to what’s he done, not only for my brothers and sisters, his wife — my mother — but just the way he lived his life. He was truly a man’s man, and you don’t see that a lot of times being a young man until you get up older in life because of the maturity level.”
The lessons he learned from his father were evident in the way he prepared for and played the game.
“One of the biggest things I learned from him is that it’s easy to do stuff when you feel like doing it, that’s the easy part. What separates you from everybody else is doing it at a high level when you don’t feel like doing it.”
Spikes suited up for five teams over his 15-year career.
He was involved in other ventures outside the league throughout his career, and broadcasting is one world he always wanted to join.
“I want to stay involved in the game because I love it so much,” Spikes said on his official website. “I’ve done on-air radio and TV work, and I think I do a good job commentating about the game.”
Spikes got his opportunity in August when he signed with NBC Sports as an NFL analyst. He’s featured weekly on two shows: “Pro Football Talk” and “Fantasy Football Live.” Spikes also hosts an NFL show on Sirius XM radio.
We all enjoyed having a front row seat to the career of one of the greatest Auburn and NFL linebackers ever.
I’m sure his father would’ve enjoyed watching, as well.