'I'm not supposed to be here': Fifth-year Devon Spalding moves from running back to wide receiver

Central Michigan wide receiver Devon Spalding poses for a portrait after practice on Aug. 14 at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.

Succeeding an injury in the spring, Devon Spalding quit the Central Michigan football team. 

He was done. No more football. Yet, a few days after his discontinuation, and a whole lot of family conversations later, Spalding entered CMU coach John Bonamego's office in the Indoor Athletic Complex. 

Spalding was keen to return to the team, not as a running back but a wide receiver. 

"I told him I needed to come back and play wide receiver and he thought it was a good idea," Spalding said of his conversation with Bonamego. 

Wide receivers coach Marcus Knight gave his consent.

Spalding rejoined the Chippewas and spent his summer working out as a wide receiver, putting in countless hours to study a new position in preparation for the 2018 season. 

"The guys on T.V. make it look a lot easier than it is," Spalding explained. "I’ve never done it but the transition is going better than I expected even though it’s harder than I thought it would be."

With help from Knight and graduate assistant coach Corey Fuller, the 5-foot-11, 205-pound receiver noticed himself progressing at his new position every day. Spalding also gave high remarks to fellow wide receivers Brandon Childress, Jamil Sabbagh and Damon Terry for helping him make the alteration.

At the first practice of the season on Aug. 3, Spalding told Bonamego, "Coach, wide receiver is different." 

Right now, Spalding said he could be sitting behind a desk at work. Instead, he's playing the game he loves. 

"I got an extra year," he said. "I'm thankful every day and am having the most fun I've ever had." 

Being able to stick with football, join his teammates on the gridiron and learn a new position has shown Bonamego the leadership qualities ingrained in Spalding. 

"The game is very important to him," Bonamego said. "If it wasn’t, he’s had ample opportunities to take an exit door away from it. He’s the type of individual where any challenge you put in front of him isn't going to be too much."

Spalding has played in 31 games for CMU and rushed for 1,432 yards and 13 touchdowns. His best season to date was in 2016, running 138 times for 758 yards and six touchdowns along with 204 receiving yards and one score.

Of the 31 games, he participated in 11 as a freshman, five as an injured sophomore, 11 as a junior and four as an injured senior.

Playing running back for four seasons at CMU allowed Spalding to lend a helping hand to others, like star junior Jonathan Ward. 

Spalding's attention has shifted away from Ward, Romello Ross, Kumehnnu Gwilly, Jerrod Davis and other running backs because learning a new position requires nearly all his time. 

"I’m watching my wide receivers because my technique is not anywhere close to where it should be," Spalding added. "I’m just really focused on myself right now. I keep positivity up on the sidelines whenever stuff starts to hit the fan."

The ability Spalding believes he will be able to use best to his advantage is physicality. As a running back, he was forced to block 260-pound defensive ends. As a wide receiver, his primary focus will be catching passes and blocking defensive backs. 

"I like to hit and consider myself as a person that plays offense with a defensive mindset," Spalding said. "As long as I’m helping the team win, I don’t care.” 

Bonamego said Spalding has only moved up the wide receiver depth chart since making the change.

"This is all a blessing," Spalding said. "I don't deserve to be here."