After fight with leukemia, Spriggs back to battling on field

Hunter Spriggs played in the Panthers’ first home game of the season on Sept. 21 – the first time he’s played on Wilson Field since 2016, after years spent recovering from multiple forms of leukemia. Photo by Kali Hoffman, photo editor

Just eight months ago, Chapman offensive lineman Hunter Spriggs could barely bring himself to move from class to class after undergoing a bone marrow transplant in August 2018. Yet this fall semester, he’s back at home on the football field competing and pushing his body to the limit day in and day out.

“Midway through training camp, that was the happiest I’ve ever been — to feel alive again,” Spriggs said.

Spriggs has dealt with two different diagnoses of leukemia, which sidelined him for the entirety of his sophomore and junior seasons.

“You have to become a pillar of strength for your family,” Spriggs said. “It is all on you; your parents, siblings and friends are looking for strength and you have to be that for them. I know it’s kind of ironic to say since you’re the one in the hospital, but you have to give it to them.”

The journey back into his stance on the field didn’t come easily for the fifth-year senior, business administration and economics double major. He had to prepare differently for this season to make sure his body was in playing shape while also taking precautions to not harm himself in the long run.

“I’ve been trying to push to the limit and then go a little beyond that. There’s some days I have to stay home and can’t go to practice. It sucks and it eats away at me,” Spriggs said. “But you have to stay in the fight, so if your body is starting to give out, don’t kill yourself over it.”

Despite any daily struggles, Spriggs’ battle was extremely rewarding for him. He remembers his first practice in pads since his sophomore season as his defining moment of success in his return from surgery.

“The first time we were fully suited up and we finished I thought, ‘I did it,’” Spriggs said. “You have the whole season to go, but you get that first practice fully padded in and you think, ‘Wow.’”

His hard work getting back onto the field captured the attention of his peers and coaches.

“I compete against him every day across the line and it’s amazing to have him back,” said Ricky Medeiros, a senior defensive end and business administration major. “He’s even better now as a football player than he was before, even after everything he’s been through.”

Spriggs still has to take safety measures every day in the weight room, such as disinfecting all of the equipment to lower the risk of infection. However, head coach Bob Owens said Spriggs has reached a point in his recovery where his team’s able to view him as just a player like everyone else.

“For most of us, we’ve stopped being amazed at what’s going on in his life,” Owens said. “We’ve realized there are limitations and there are times where he’s gotta step away from it, but we just see him as part of the program, which just shows how far he’s come.”

On the warm and muggy Saturday night of Sept. 21, the Panthers defeated Whitworth University 37-30 in Spriggs’ first game on Wilson Field since the 2016-2017 campaign. Despite this personal milestone, Spriggs was more excited after the game about the team’s win than any individual accomplishment.

“I want to contribute to this program any way I can,” Spriggs said. “I’ve been looking forward to this moment for a couple years – I’m surprised I wasn’t more emotional about it, but I guess that’s attributed to my professionalism.”