Tyrone Spencer has roots at King. He played football for four years and graduated in 2003. His mother and uncles attended Eastern High School, which became Martin Luther King, Jr. Senior High School.
To see all of Spencer’s accomplishments, awards, and acknowledgements as head varsity football coach for King, one may find it hard to believe coaching football was never on his radar.
“I never desired to be a head coach. I just wanted to come back to my school (King) and help out,” Spencer said. “Coach Harvel before he passed asked me to come help out. He gave me a bigger role than I expected. I wasn’t looking to coach. I was looking to give back to kids from my high school. It just worked out. God had other things intended.”
Spencer holds respect for coach Dale Harvel, who died in 2016. This is when Spencer went from assistant to head coach.
“He really tutored me and guided me. Everything I’ve learned from football has been from him,” said Spencer.
Aside from Harvel, coach James Reynolds had an impact on Spencer’s skills on the field. Reynolds was his coach at King from 1999-2002.
“When coach Reynolds came and Harvel came in the ‘80’s, they laid a foundation of hard work, effort, mental toughness, and we kept that going,” said Spencer. “We are three different coaches, three different personalities, but we went about our work the same way.”
After high school, Spencer attended Grand Rapids Community College, where he continued to have a mediocre state of mind regarding academics. He eventually obtained an athletic scholarship in 2004 to attend Wayne State University, where he played under coach Paul Winters.
“I decided to come to Wayne State and that was really good for me,” Spencer said. “Coach Winters always taught me things like set my watch five minutes fast because on time is late.”
Spencer is driven by a decision to give his players what he didn’t get in high school. He tries to give his players a positive mindset.
“I underachieved in high school and I don’t want these kids to be the same way. I wish someone mentored me and told me come here son and do this and you’re going to get here,” said Spencer.
Spencer went on to mentor other minority educators. He coached Little League flag football and for WSU for a short period.
Under Spencer’s assistance and leadership, King won the state championships in 2015, 2016, and 2018; the Detroit Public School championship in 2017. He is the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association 2016, 2018 Coach of the Year; the 2016 MLive Detroit Coach of the Year; and the 2017 Detroit News Coach of the Year.
On Feb. 6, 16 varsity football players signed with colleges and universities, and there will be an additional five players to sign by the end of this school year.
“Sometimes effort can erase mistakes if you really grind it out,” said Spencer.