JD Spielman already once decided not to stay home.
Now he has the chance to either double down on that choice or double back.
The Eden Prairie native has entered the NCAA transfer portal, clearing the way for the former Nebraska receiver’s potential homecoming. The Gophers were initially in contention for Spielman back in 2015, before he ultimately picked the Cornhuskers.
Nebraska confirmed the news of Spielman's plan on Monday.
Spielman was a standout at Eden Prairie High School, a teammate and friend of several current and former Gophers, including Carter Coughlin, Blake Cashman and Antoine Winfield Jr. The 2015 Minnesota Mr. Football winner, Spielman redshirted his first season at Nebraska but ended his redshirt junior year this past season winning All-Big Ten honors for the third consecutive time.
He amassed 2,546 yards from 170 catches the past three seasons — ranking third on the program’s records list — scoring 15 touchdowns. He’s also been prominent on special teams, returning 21 punts for 216 yards and two touchdowns as well as 39 kicks for 835 yards and one touchdown in his career.
Gophers coach P.J. Fleck praised Spielman after the Gophers beat Nebraska 54-21 in 2017, a game where Spielman accumulated 141 receiving yards on nine receptions.
“We’ve got to keep Minnesota in-state talent right here,” Fleck said after that game. “That’s the best compliment I can give him. He’s exceptional. He’s one of those guys who’s a difference-maker, and we’ve got to keep those difference-makers right here.”
Spielman, the son of Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman, took a leave of absence from Nebraska in March and returned to Minnesota for what coach Scott Frost cited as a “personal health matter.” Frost has only been coaching Spielman since 2018, with Spielman initially committing to Mike Riley, when Jerry Kill was Minnesota’s coach.
Spielman said in 2017 that he had a hard time deciding during his recruitment, especially when so many of his friends, including Tyler Johnson, Thomas Barber and Phillip Howard, were all going to Minnesota. And he knew it would be fun to play with them.
“But sometimes you’ve just got to follow where your heart desires. My mind wanted to stay home, but my heart really said that I wanted to go out and experience life in a whole different area, in a place I don’t know, meet a whole bunch of new people,” Spielman said. “It was tough saying no to Minnesota. But at the end of the day, I felt like I had to do it.”
The 5-9, 180-pound slot receiver could still fit in with the Gophers now with his remaining year of eligibility. It’s unclear if he has graduated yet and thus could qualify for immediate playing time, but he could also apply for an NCAA transfer waiver.
That would allow him to immediately fill in for Johnson, who set school receiving yards and touchdown records before joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Gophers could insert Spielman alongside Big Ten Receiver of the Year Rashod Bateman and rising junior Chris Autman-Bell.