Believe this if you will: When he was in seventh grade, Chanhassen quarterback Alex Spillum swears he wasn’t much of an athlete.
Really? The same Alex Spillum — who runs a 4.5 40-yard dash, high jumps 6-5, developed a strong arm as a third baseman and is being recruited as a decathlete — was a klutz not so long ago?
“I can verify that,” said senior wide receiver Keagan Williams, a lifelong friend of Spillum’s. “It wasn’t until about ninth grade his athletic ability started to show and people started to notice.”
It wasn’t until last summer that Spillum, a senior, was identified as the Storm’s next quarterback. And people have noticed.
Chanhassen finished the regular season undefeated, earned the No. 1 seed in Class 5A, Section 2 and played host to intra-school district rival Chaska in a highly anticipated playoff game Saturday. A season like that doesn’t happen simply because of one player, but it never would have happened without the talented Spillum.
During the regular season, the 6-2, 185-pound Spillum passed for nearly 700 yards and nine touchdowns, rushed for 846 yards and 10 touchdowns and was a human highlight reel.
“I don’t think there’s a more explosive player in the state,” Williams said. “You look up and you see him turning a broken play into an 80-yard touchdown. There’s nothing he can’t do.”
Mike Bailey had been an assistant at Chanhassen since 2009 before taking over as head coach this year. He also assists with the track and field team, so last summer, when Bailey and new quarterbacks coach Dan Thompson were assessing the upcoming football season, the thought of having Spillum’s athleticism as the focal point of the offense gained steam.
“We knew 2016 was a year we could take a shot, but we didn’t really have a quarterback who was a run-pass threat,” Bailey said. “We said, ‘Let’s go see him throw it around a little bit,’ and we found out he had a rocket arm. We sent a letter to the University of Minnesota, telling them this kid is the best athlete we’ve ever had at Chanhassen.”
It didn’t take long for Spillum’s talents to spill over onto the field of play. Chanhassen, overflowing with team speed, easily racked up touchdowns in a preseason scrimmage that included two highly regarded Class 6A teams.
“We just tore one defense apart,” Spillum said. “We scored I don’t know how many touchdowns. That’s when we could start to see things fall into place.”
They proved it was not a fluke with a 49-28 rout of Armstrong in the season opener. Suddenly, with Spillum conducting the offense, Chanhassen went from a team hoping to be recognized to a team to be reckoned with.
“Then the next week, we went to Holy Angels and led them 49-0 at halftime,” Spillum recalled. “We started thinking, ‘Hey, we’re pretty good.’ ”
Spillum has plenty of company on his fast track. Senior running back Tom Loeffler “is as fast, if not a little bit faster than Alex,” Bailey said. Loeffler put up more than 700 yards rushing — almost 900 total yards — and scored 10 touchdowns. Junior Eddie Odanga leads the team with 13 rushing touchdowns. The smooth-striding Williams is a deep threat with the ability to run past defenders or catch the ball beyond them.
“That’s the thing, it’s not just Alex,” Bailey said. “We have a lot of team speed. [Opposing coaches] can tell kids that we’re really fast, but until they get out there and see the angles they take just aren’t proper, how do they know just how fast an Alex Spillum is?”
Like all good quarterbacks, Spillum made a point to recognize the selfless play of his offensive linemen.
“The linemen are amazing. When we run, we run behind power,” he said. “A guy like [guard] Scott Gustafson? He’s so much fun to run behind because he always pancakes the first guy he sees.”
Spillum took a recruiting visit to North Dakota State last weekend, where the track coaches were trying to entice him to enroll with the hopes of making him a decathlete. It was tempting, he admitted, but he added that his newfound success has him leaning toward a football career.
“I know I have some potential in track,” he said. “I’d like to go somewhere where I have the option to do both. But right now, I’m loving football.”