Quarterback Spergon Wynn III. Quarterback Tom Brady.
The two field generals will forever be intertwined. They both know this. The fact that Brady went to one organization that had a future Hall of Fame coach was set up by the football gods.
But Wynn’s life on the field and away from the field is not dictated by things he cannot control. Yes, he doesn’t own - what is it now? Seven Super Bowl rings? Yes, he doesn’t own seven Super Bowl rings and is not a first ballot Hall of Famer.
But he played professional football out of a small school. He was paid to play football at the highest level, and at some other levels as well. Spergon Wynn was a great athlete and played pro football. How many of us can say that in our lives? Isn’t that living the dream through somebody else?
Wynn was a Texas kid, just like a lot of other quarterbacks who have graced NFL sidelines. He attended Episcopal High School in Bellaire, Texas where he played basketball and football as the quarterback and safety. His father, Spergon Wynn, Jr., was a former linebacker and offensive guard.
He went to the University of Minnesota in 1996 to be a part of the Big 10 and played sparingly for head coach Jim Wacker. When Wacker was fired, in 1998 Wynn transferred closer to home to Southwest Texas State University (now known as Texas State) which sits on 492 acres in San Marcos, Texas and then-competed in the Southland Conference. Currently, that university plays in the Sun Belt Conference as a D-1 school.
At Southwest Texas State, he found a home and in his first season tossed for 1,647 yards with 173 completions amidst 284 attempts for a 60.9% completion ratio. In his second year, he had 161 completions on 322 attempts with 1,851 yards. Wynn threw for 24 touchdowns collectively.
Wynn’s scouting report at the time stated that he was athletic, a mobile quarterback with a strong but inaccurate arm. His completion ratio in college averaged 55.1%, and he also tossed 19 INTs. He was invited to participate in the NFL Combine.
He was taken by the Browns in the sixth-round of the 2000 NFL draft. 16 picks later in the same round, the New England Patriots used the now-infamous 199th pick on Brady - a quarterback who had only started one full season in college. But he fell to the perfect team, with the perfect coach and the perfect system for his particular skill set. That in itself is an unusual occurrence. And if you think about the dumb luck for New England, every team passed on Brady five times - some even six.
On the other hand, Wynn was thrust full throttle into the never-ending trash compactor that called themselves the Cleveland Browns whose head coach at the time was Chris Palmer. In 2000, the Browns were actually the “New Browns” and basically in their second season as an expansion club. We all know what happens to expansion teams.
Wynn will always be in the conversation about Brady being taken in the same round as him, but that is history. And history is full of facts and statistics that do not make any sense. To compare Wynn to the guy who had one of the most fortuitous career in the history the league would be nonsensical. And NFL draft history is chock full of quarterbacks were taken in rounds they should never have been selected: Joe Montana (Round 3), Bart Starr (17), Johnny Unitas (9), Russell Wilson (3), Mark Rypien (6), Joe Theismann (4), Roger Staubach (10) and Mark Brunell (5), to name a few.
After one season in Cleveland, Wynn was sent to play in NFL Europe where other developmental players where placed in order to hone his skillset. He played for the Amsterdam Admirals, who two seasons earlier was quarterbacked by future Hall of Famer Kurt Warner. With the Admirals, Wynn threw for 2,039 yards with 14 touchdowns. From there, the Browns packaged a trade with Wynn, running back Travis Prentice and a seventh-round pick to the Minnesota Vikings for a fifth-round selection.
Wynn now has been married 11 years to his wife Joslyn. The couple live in Houston as Baptists with their two sons Spergon IV and Slaton. He is employed by Amerex Energy Services. He plays golf occasionally, but his sports life today is mainly being a sports dad as both of his sons are involved in recreational leagues.
Dawgs By Nature caught up with the former Browns quarterback to find out how NFL playbooks are different from college playbooks, what specific rule the NFL should adopt from the CFL, and the only Tom Brady question we wanted to ask him.
DBN: Your first year of college you attended Minnesota for Coach Jim Wacker. When he was fired, you transferred to Southwest Texas State. Did you decide this because Wacker was now gone or maybe you wanted to be closer to your home?
Wynn: I wasn’t homesick at all. Coach Wacker was one of the reasons I did go to Minnesota and really liked my quarterback coach Jim Zorn. Once they were gone, I really didn’t feel the new coaches were best-suited to me which happens a lot when a coaching staff turns over. It’s how they see you, how they evaluate you and your talent. They may not view you as favorably as the previous staff did. I saw my position as sliding down the depth chart and realized I wasn’t going to get enough experience or playing time in order to get better as a quarterback. So I wanted to find a place where I could get on the field and play and make mistakes and learn from them and become a better quarterback.
DBN: What was the Combine experience like?
Wynn: I had a major surgery two months before the Combine. I couldn’t walk for eight weeks. Basically I had a week before to get any kind of strength back. I had a micro-flex procedure done which requires no weight on the leg for two months. I was throwing from a seated position leading up to the Combine. I didn’t run very well obviously, but I felt I was one of the best arms there. And seeing that gave me a lot of confidence. I tested well. I didn’t have a lot of great stats coming out of college, but I was big, I was strong and I could throw the ball really well which is the main reason I was drafted.
DBN: What was the pre-draft process?
Wynn: I didn’t really have a pre-draft process. I was projected to not be drafted at all. My former coach Jim Zorn was part of the Combine and would talk to me and give me tips and just try to relax me. That was really helpful. But after the Combine I didn’t have a process. I was just working out to get in the best shape possible and get my knee better in case a team called.
DBN: You were taken in the sixth-round of the NFL draft by Cleveland. How did you find out you had been drafted, who called you and what did your mother tell you after she heard the news?
Wynn: I was in my apartment on my own during the draft. My agent had instructed me to keep my phone on. My phone rang with an area code that I wasn’t familiar with because back in the day we didn’t have call waiting or caller ID. I answered and it was Coach (Chris) Palmer. He said he was the head coach of the Cleveland Browns and that I would be their next pick. I was very happy because this was something I had been dreaming about. And then I turned on the TV to ESPN and heard my name announced which was surreal. It was pretty cool. My first call was to my mom and then my agent called. My mom told me she was proud of me and that I deserved it – all the things a mother would say to her son.
DBN: When you were drafted, the QB room was Ty Detmer as the veteran, the Browns had just drafted Tim Couch Number 1 overall the year before, plus Kevin Thompson was an undrafted free agent. Did you come into training camp with the idea that you could compete for the starting position, or compete for the backup role, or were you just happy to be in the NFL?
Wynn: They made it pretty clear that they wanted to see great things and develop me for another team. And I really appreciated that. Coach Palmer, who I have a great deal of respect for, said and I am paraphrasing, ‘Look. You have a lot of talent. We want your value to grow and want you to get to another level where you can go play for another team. We have this plan in mind for you and that plan may not be to play here.’ To hear him say that was refreshing. At the time I didn’t understand the business side of football. They had a big investment in Tim Couch and expected great things in him. I completely understood that since they took him Number 1 overall. So just hearing them be honest that they want me to do well, they want me to develop and learn and gain some value. And then everybody’s happy. If there was any pressure, it was on Tim and not anybody else. I was there to learn as much as I could and if called upon to use that knowledge to perform.
DBN: Describe your first training camp and what do veterans do to abuse rookies?
Wynn: My first training camp was eye-opening. You go from being the guy from a small town to doing media appearances and local talk shows. I am not really an outgoing person. That’s not really the best time for me and all those aspects. I liked being at the facility at 6:30 in the morning and leaving at 6:30 at night. That was completely fine for me. That was the fun part to watch film, work out, be in the locker room with the guys, eat, practice – it was basically a football player’s dream. To hang out and do football all day. The older position guys are the ones who control their group. Ty was our vet. And he was a prankster. He made me take all of us out to dinner which there was only four of us so it didn’t break the bank. You would go to the bathroom and get ice water poured over you while you sit in the stall. Or you would have an animal in your lunch bag.
DBN: What is it like to go from a small school to an NFL organization, and going from a student-athlete to now football being your job?
Wynn: It’s a transition. Really I wasn’t ready for it and didn’t know what to expect. Now you have the internet and social media to do the research of what your expectations will be. I had to learn a lot of things on the fly. I didn’t have the confidence to stand up and ask questions being a rookie. That wasn’t a strength I had back then. Now being older and living in the world I look back and know I could have done many things a lot differently. At the end of the day, I think it was a great experience.
DBN: How much different is an NFL playbook from the one you had at Minnesota or at Southwest Texas State?
Wynn: You are expected to know a great deal more especially since you don’t have to balance the school side of it. In the NFL they expect you to be good in a league of match-ups. It’s also the little things like being in the right place and really about learning the nuances. The anticipation of that one step that may the difference in making a play or not making it. Those little things separate the college game from the NFL game from the performance side. They expect you to execute at a higher and precise level.
DBN: 32-year old Doug Peterson was later signed when Detmer was injured. He is now a Super Bowl winning head coach. When you practiced and studied with him, did he try to mentor you, and did you ever see the coaching side of him?
Wynn: He did a good job of relaying the knowledge he had to the group. I was a young kid and was just trying to learn as much as I could and here was just another guy who had a lot of experience at the position. Now, it didn’t surprise me at all he became a coach at a high level. I expected that of Ty as well. He just knew so much that everything was just innate to him. Both knew what would work versus this coverage. Sometimes I would be caught looking at details, but they had the ability to step back and look at the entire painting and how it all comes together.
DBN: There is only one Tom Brady question and here it is. Brady was taken 16 slots behind you, but you were the first to start an actual NFL game. How often does the Brady thing get mentioned in your life?
Wynn: I didn’t know that I was the first one of the two of us to start. Being drafted in the same round doesn’t get mentioned too often. Usually it’s around the draft time and somebody will call. Or around Super Bowl time especially when the Patriots were in one of those games. Other than that, nobody really cares anymore. I am so old now that doesn’t mean much.
DBN: As a rookie, you had an experience with an invitation to a restaurant down the street from Browns headquarters. And when you arrived the place was packed with fans wanting to meet you. Being a rookie, did this surprise you that Browns fans cared that much about you?
Wynn: Yeh, it really did. I had no idea people were that passionate about their team. That’s Cleveland. They are die-hard. At Texas State I only hung out with football players and was kinda insulated in the things we did or the places we went to. So when we arrived at that restaurant I was very surprised there was a line and all those people were there. I was really, really nervous. That’s when it dawned on me that people in Cleveland really care about you.
DBN: So, you must have heard someone talk about you on the various sports talk shows on the radio or television with you not only being a rookie - but a rookie quarterback.
Wynn: At the time, I never listened to talk radio or any sports shows. But one time I was in a cab after a pre-season game and the cab driver had it on sports radio. And one of the callers called in about the Browns and how excited he was and he couldn’t wait to see Spergon Wynn play in the pre-season. I was like what? Someone is talking about seeing me play? We already had the Number 1 overall pick and the veteran Ty Detmer. And there is somebody out there that cared enough to call into a radio show just to say they wanted to see me play. I was like the third-string guy. Browns fans are intimate.
DBN: In your rookie season you were given a start against Jacksonville and were sacked five times. After a while, what do you say to your offensive linemen to make it stop?
Wynn: That really might have been a sack or two that occurred with me holding onto the ball too long. That year was tough because injuries in the NFL are commonplace to everybody. That year we had a rookie center, a rookie tight end, a rookie running back and a rookie wide receiver. We were just all so young and had a lot of guys getting good playing time who were in their first or second year. They’re all good players but don’t have the experience so it becomes hard as a group. It’s not just one guy that’s messing up - it’s the collective effort of a group of young guys. It happens. We had to learn from it. We had to keep fighting and come out better for it.
DBN: After your rookie season, you were assigned to NFL Europe for further development. How are those fans in Europe different from the fans in the U.S.?
Wynn: They were used to watching soccer, so the fans that really supported us were die-hard football fans. The others just weren’t used to the stop and start of the game, but they were up the entire time going crazy the whole time. That was a fun experience. In Germany because of the U.S. bases, they had really good fans who were knowledgeable about the game.
DBN: What were some odd customs over there, and what was your favorite foods to eat?
Wynn: That is one of the those things that I didn’t explore more than I wish I had. I was a bit of an introvert and now that I am older and have been around a little bit, wish I had done more. I tried to stay at the hotel and eat American as much as possible. Now I see that was a bad way to spend six months a year in Europe and not doing much. I knew where the nearest McDonald’s and Burger King was. It was surprising how much over there was Americanized.
DBN: You were subsequently traded to the Minnesota Vikings. How did you find out you were traded, and when you got there did QB’s Daunte Culpepper and Todd Bouman try to help you out or treat you like the kid who was there to take their jobs?
Wynn: I got called into the office in the next training camp after Amsterdam and was told to bring my playbook and head coach Butch Davis told me that I had been traded to the Vikings. And I am thinking that here comes a new coaching staff all over again. One year with Coach Wacker, one year with Chris Palmer, one year with Bart Andrus with Amsterdam. I was basically on a flight that evening. And on the plane I am thinking how am I going to get all my stuff from Cleveland to Minneapolis? It all happened pretty quick. Both quarterbacks accepted me pretty quickly and took the time to help me when they could.
DBN: In your first year with the Vikings, you started three games. Tell us about your very first NFL touchdown pass.
Wynn: It was in Green Bay and was really cold. I had missed a few shots into the end zone. During that time period Minnesota had gone to the playoffs on a regular basis. In that game I was pressing a little bit and wanted to do something positive. It was probably an ill-advised pass but Byron Chamberlain made a great catch and ended up making a great play for a touchdown. At the time it did not register that this was my first NFL touchdown pass. It was in the middle of the game and I was more focused on how to move the ball. The equipment guy came to me later and told me he had saved the ball. I really appreciate that because that was the last thing on my mind.
DBN: You played in the CFL for three clubs. Was it difficult to get used to their rules, and which rule do you think the NFL should adopt?
Wynn: There wasn’t a difficulty at all. Once you wrap your head around the different rules it all makes sense. What rule? That’s a good question. You can move two at the line of scrimmage before the snap. It would create a little chaos for the fans at first, but that rule would provide more high-scoring games.
DBN: In 2003 with Toronto, QB Damon Allen was lost with a broken finger and you started four consecutive games. How is the preparation and mindset different knowing you are going to be the starter this week versus knowing you are the backup for the upcoming game?
Wynn: I would prefer to know that I am the starter for the next game. There are a lot of guys who never get snaps in practices and are backups season-after-season. They only get in the game at garbage time or the game is out of hand. And can go seasons without really playing. I was always able to play because of injuries and getting playing time and also some starts. To me, knowing the next game you are going to start is important because you get the reps in practice. It just makes it easier to just out there and play. To get your number called in the heat of a game is a lot harder.
DBN: What do you own as far as football memorabilia of your playing days from Cleveland, Minnesota, Amsterdam, BC, Winnipeg and Toronto?
Wynn: My rookie year with the Browns, at the end of the year, some vets told me that if you give the equipment guy some money you can keep your helmet. And then get the guys to sign it being your rookie year. So, I have my Cleveland Browns helmet with everybody’s signature on it. I tried to get a helmet from every stop, but not my Vikings helmet nor Amsterdam.
DBN: You are now an energy broker for Amerex Energy in Houston. How did you get interested in this line of work?
Wynn: When I went back to finish school, one of my good friends was in the energy industry. The power space was dominated at the time by engineers and accountants. The industry began to have to think outside the box and see other perspectives. When I was done playing, my friend told me I should interview for this job that was open. I interviewed and they offered me a job on the spot and I took it. I went back to school to get my MBA and started working and went to the propane side of it.
DBN: What is a typical day for an energy broker?
Wynn: We are watching the price for natural gas, watching other commodities and what they are doing in the markets. Talking to clients, trying to structure option deals, so it’s not one big thing you do. You try to create different ways for your clients get them the most value possible. So instead of looking at it one way, you may have to find a different approach for somebody who is looking to buy or sell something.
DBN: There seems to be a lot of pressure in the form of legislation to reduce company’s energy consumption, especially in Europe. Is it better for a company to have energy monitoring and reporting technology offered by energy consultants?
Wynn: I think so. At this time, a lot of different theories about where we are heading now as far as renewable versus the older fossil fuels. Being “green” is the wave of the future, but there is something to say about having sustainable power which is something to rely on. Nobody wants to be coal-based anymore. We can’t all be solar or wind-based if we want consistency in our grid. I do think that if those companies had the market technology it would benefit them knowing how much sustainable they could use versus fossil fuel.
DBN: When you played for the Browns, what area of the city did you live, and what were some places that you and other players went to hang out and have a beer or a bite to eat?
Wynn: I lived in Berea and my apartment was maybe a mile from the facility. I didn’t really do a lot. There was a place near the facility that had barbeque and ribs that we frequented a lot. Because they were so close to the facility they got a lot of players there. They took care of us and were so pleasant. I ate most of my meals at the facility and normally took some food home to eat, but if I ventured out it was there. It was saucy ribs and back home the Texas style are dry. I am not going to discriminate.
DBN: What was your fondest moment of being a Cleveland Brown?
Wynn: My time in Cleveland, I think about those guys in the locker room and the guys in my meeting room. That was a tough season for us and we didn’t come out on top a lot, but whether it was in the locker room or the practice field I just remember being around a bunch of good guys. I can still name all of the players in my rookie class. We all were growing and learning what the NFL game was about.