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Notre Dame-bound Rocco Spindler of Clarkston named winner of STATE CHAMPS! Anvil Award for 2020

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, January 28, 2021, 5:32 pm

For the children of professional athletes, it’s not uncommon for their successes to be held up against their parents’ achievements. 

Certainly, that’s been the case for Clarkston’s Rocco Spindler, the highly decorated two-way lineman whose father, Marc, was a high school national player of the year, a collegiate star at Pitt, and a hard-nosed professional player in the NFL, most of it with the Detroit Lions.

But, Rocco’s collected plenty of accolades in his own right, and he’s now earned something his father never did: He’s been named the 2020 winner of the STATE CHAMPS! Anvil Award.

An early enrollee at Notre Dame, Spindler — the two-time peoples’ champ as the winner of the online voting for the award — was presented with the honor on Thursday. 

Begun in 2018 to honor the state’s linemen and linebackers — those guys who do the dirty work in the trenches, but may never be able to compete for the STATE CHAMPS! Mr. Football award — Spindler is the third player to be given the Anvil, and the first true lineman. 

Coach Kurt Richardson’s recommendation may have been succinct, but it spoke volumes.

“Best football player I have coached in 45 years,” Richardson said of the player who started both ways for the Wolves in every game of his career. 

In Clarkston’s eight games this season, the 6-foot-4, 295-pound Spindler accounted defensively for 53 tackles, 25 assists, two sacks, 13 tackles for loss, one blocked punt, two passes batted down, one interception and 25 quarterback hurries. On the offensive side, he had 85 pancakes or knockdowns, and didn’t allow a sack his entire, four-year high school career. 

A four-year star for the Wolves, who went 34-12 in his career, Spindler has drawn plenty of accolades on his own, prior to this one — a long enough list that his resume might need chapter headers. 

After helping the Wolves to the Division 1 title as a freshman, and a runner-up finish as a sophomore, Spindler was a MaxPreps All-American in 2018, and an UnderArmour All-American in 2020. He’s earned All-American status from recruiting guru Tom Lemming, and was invited to  play in the 2021 Under Armour All-American game before it was canceled. He’s a three-time all-stater in Michigan, and has been on the dream teams of multiple local publications. 

And he was tough as nails: He stayed in the game after tearing his labrum in the fourth quarter of the 2019 championship contest against Chippewa Valley. 

In the recruiting world, he was ranked a four-star player by both 247Sports and Rivals, the third-best player on the list for Michigan’s 2021 class, and third- or fourth-best in national class of 2021 offensive guards. 

The other three finalists for the award were: Belleville’s Damon Payne (for the second straight year in the final four), Romeo’s Michael Heldman and Oak Park’s Rayshaun Benny. Payne is signed with Alabama, Heldman with Central Michigan and Benny is committed to Michigan State. 

Spindler was judged the best by the STATE CHAMPS! panel of experts and contributors, using the formula of performance throughout the season (30 percent), level of competition (20), online vote (20), big-game performance (15), team success (10) and highly recruited athlete (5).

Previous Anvil Award winners:

2019 — Cornell Wheeler, LB, West Bloomfield (Michigan)

2018 — Marcel Lewis, LB, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (Michigan State/Central Michigan)