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February 15, 2012Domenic Spencer is learning good things come to those who wait.
It wasn't by design the Dallas (Tex.) Skyline linebacker watched his teammates celebrate National Signing Day without him, but now he couldn't be happier with the way things turned out.
"I've been nervous (about recruiting) since my junior year," Spencer said. "Everybody was telling me I'm too short. Sometimes I let it bother me, but when I'm on the field it doesn't bother me because I knew something was going to come through. God has a plan for me and it worked out."
On Tuesday, the 5-foot-11, 215-pound two-time All-State football player officially signed with the University of Central Florida after taking a late official visit to the school.
After seeing some of their top targets sign elsewhere, UCF coaches embarked on a nationwide search to see if there were any talented linebackers who may have fallen through the cracks. A tip led them to Spencer, who also had an offer from Navy and had generated strong looks from SMU, UTEP, New Mexico, Iowa State and others.
Spencer may not fit the prototypical linebacker mold, but that's not an issue for the Knights who value speed and talent over height.
"When Coach George O'Leary called me into the office, he told me he loves how I'm always around the ball," Spencer said. "He says it shows on the film that I'm flying to the ball and he lkes that. They told me they like how I come off the edge, use my hands and how I use my leverage to the best of my ability. I always stay low and use my legs."
Playing for a team that many considered to be the best in Texas, Spencer recorded 145 tackles and five sacks as a senior. A year before he tallied 13 sacks playing defensive end. He has experience playing all three linebacker positions.
"I don't know what position I'll play at UCF, either mike or will," Spencer said. "They told me they needed linebackers and I'd be a good fit for their team. They run the same defense I ran at Skyline. I think it will be a good fit for me. They told me they'll play true freshmen. If you're a hard worker, do what the coaches tell you to do and work hard in classroom, if you earn it you'll play."
Spencer visited UCF earlier this week.
"I loved going there on a Sunday instead of Saturday," he said. "Saturday is probably the party day in college, but Sunday is a relaxed day, a smooth day, so I could see the campus for myself and relate. Then Monday I got a chance to watch the team workout and see into their program. I got to see how they lift weights and workout and see how they carry themselves on and off the field. I saw the players going to class and stuff like that."
He spent most of the trip with his future coaches: Defensive coordinator Jim Fleming and linebackers coach Tyson Summers as well as Director of Player Personnel Drew Hughes.
"I clicked with the coaches right off the bat," Spencer said. "They picked me up from the airport and we went to the hotel where I met all them. Coach O'Leary wasn't there yet because he was out with his wife. We had dinner together that Sunday night. We sat and talked about how my trip was and how my family was doing. They said they were surprised I was unsigned after seeing my film. Then I met with my host for the night, Troy Gray. Troy was a freshman this past year and he started the last nine games."
Spencer also hung out with A.J. Bouye and Jonathan Davis, among others.
"I basically met all the linebackers," Spencer said. "We just chilled and played video games. They talked to me about the school. They told me I'd be a good fit for them because they need some linebackers. They told me once I come in I'll be third on the depth chart, so I can work my way up from there."
As for the school itself, Spencer said there's a lot to love about UCF.
"I loved what I saw of the facilities," Spencer said. "I know in my four years there they're going to get me right and put the most weight they can on me. We'll be playing in the BIG EAST the next couple of years, so I've got to be thick and strong to take on offensive linemen.
"I liked the dorms. All the football players, they're real close. It's like a big family there. The strength and conditioning coaches, they expect the most out of you so I really like that too.
"I was impressed with how Coach O'Leary runs the schedule for the weight room. I was very impressed with the study hall and the graduation percentage. Every year Coach O'Leary has been there the graduation percentage went up."
UCF's new conference affiliation is also a big plus.
"They're very excited about playing in a BCS conference," Spencer said. "They showed me the stadium on the tour and they had BCS banners already around the stadium. They're very excited. If we win the BIG EAST that's an Orange Bowl bid right there."
Spencer's immediate goals are to come in and learn the system because he'd like to start as a true freshman and he also wants to make the Conference USA All-Academic team. Long term, he'd love to become a college football coach.
"Hopefully Coach O'Leary and I have a nice, good relationship these next four years," Spencer said. "After I graduate, I'd like to be a graduate assistant for him and become a coach. Work my way up because I'd like to be the linebackers coach at UCF. I want to help young kids make it to the NFL or graduate."