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Takeo Spikes (6-2, 242) is a 15-year linebacker in his second season with the Chargers.
It didn’t take long for veteran inside linebacker Takeo Spikes to make an impression in San Diego. Immediately upon arrival after signing a three-year contract in late-July 2011, Spikes set out to get to know everything and everyone he could inside the Chargers’ organization. At the start of training camp, he made a point of sharing meals with different groups of teammates so he could learn about each of them and what made them tick. He struck up an immediate kinship with the team’s offensive leader, quarterback Philip Rivers. And just weeks later before the season even started, teammates knew Spikes was a special individual and voted him a team captain.
Spikes paced his new team with 119 tackles, his 11th-career 100-tackle season, and he mentored fellow inside linebacker Donald Butler, who was basically a rookie after missing his entire rookie season with an Achilles injury. Spikes’ experience resonated on Butler who ended up ranking second behind Spikes in tackles with 102. At the end of the year, teammates voted another honor for Spikes, this time selecting him as the team’s Most Inspirational Player.
Over a 14-year NFL career that has seen him play in Cincinnati, Buffalo, Philadelphia, San Francisco and now San Diego, Spikes has become one of the NFL’s most popular players. He’s an 11-time team captain and is followed by more than 390,000 fans on Twitter. With an eye toward broadcasting, Spikes has a lengthy background in media. In January, he spent a week doing interviews on various platforms at the ESPN studios in Bristol, Conn. and in February, he was one of the most sought-out athletes to make the rounds of media row at Super Bowl XLVI. While playing in San Francisco from 2008-10, Spikes hosted his own Bay Area television show, “TKO TV,” on Comcast SportsNet.
There aren’t a lot of players still playing in their 15th season, as Spikes will do in 2012. Typically that type of tenure is limited to kickers, punters and quarterbacks, not linebackers. In 2011 Spikes played in his 200th career game, becoming just the 13th linebacker and 98th non-kicker to reach the milestone. His first start in 2012 mark the 200th of his career. And as further testament to his durability, at the end of the ’11 season, Spikes was only one of eight players taken in the first three rounds of the 1998 NFL Draft to still be on an active roster.
Spikes isn’t your typical linebacker though and he has devised unique training and conditioning methods that have allowed him to play the game as long as he has. One of which is a hyperbaric chamber in which he often sleeps in his homes in San Diego and Atlanta, breathing pressurized pure oxygen while asleep. It’s a technique athletes use to promote the recovery and healing of damaged tissue.
A native of tiny Sandersville, Ga., Spikes learned about hard work from those who were closest to him. He grew up about two hours from Atlanta where his mom, Lillie, was a special education teacher at the local high school and his father, Jimmie, spent 30-plus years working in the chalk mines after working in the south’s infamous plantation fields as a youngster. Takeo spent several teenage summers working alongside Jimmie in the mines where father tried to teach son that there was a better life out there for him. The lessons paid large dividends. Jimmie was able to see his son’s dream of a professional football career come true before he passed in 2001.
Spikes is still revered in Sandersville. His number is retired at Washington County High School and pictures of Spikes are strewn throughout the school’s athletic facilities. Over the years, he’s helped the school financially on numerous occasions and in June 2012 he hosted a free football camp at Washington County High for the 11th-consecutive year.
Spikes’ reputation as a leader extends beyond the locker room and the playing field. In 2007, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL Players Association appointed Spikes to the first-ever Player Advisory Council, a six-man committee established to advise Goodell on a wide range of player issues.
In 2003, Spikes and former NFL linebacker Carlos Emmons launched 51 Ways, Inc. (www.TakeoSpikes51.com), a non-profit foundation that provides financial, spiritual and physical resources to families that have children with cancer or blood disorders. Both players grew up in Georgia and lost family members to cancer.
Spikes enjoys playing golf in his free time. Teammates often refer to him as “TKO” or “Spikedog,” but his parents named him “Takeo” after Japanese Prime Minister Takeo Miki, who served from 1974-76. Takeo means “great warrior” in Japanese. And in keeping with the family tradition, Spikes named his daughter, Jakai, another Japanese word that means “beautiful flower.”
Spikes’ cousin, Brandon (Spikes), is a starting linebacker for the defending AFC Champion New England Patriots.
The Chargers bolstered the middle linebacker position with the free agent signing of Spikes, a two-time Pro Bowl selection.
A former first-round draft pick, Spikes went to the Pro Bowl following the ’03 and ’04 seasons in Buffalo. The 13th overall pick of the 1998 draft, Spikes spent his first five seasons with Cincinnati before playing for the Bills, Eagles and 49ers.
The proven veteran leader provides a physical presence in the middle of the defense. Spikes finished 2010 with his highest tackle total in seven seasons and also made three interceptions. Spikes now has 10 seasons with triple-digit tackles and ranks sixth among active NFL players with 1,244 career stops. His 18 career interceptions tie for fifth among active NFL linebackers since 1998 and his six picks since 2008 tie for second. His size 20 neck has generated attention, leading to parody Twitter and Facebook accounts.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL Players Association appointed Spikes to the first-ever Player Advisory Council in ’07. Spikes was part of a six-man committee established to advise Goodell on a wide range of player issues. Away from football, Spikes launched 51 Ways, Inc. (www.TakeoSpikes51.com) with former NFL linebacker Carlos Emmons in 2003. The non-profit foundation provides financial, spiritual and physical resources to families that have children with cancer or blood disorders. Both players grew up in Georgia and lost family members to cancer. While a 49er, Spikes starred in his own Bay Area television show, “TKO TV,” on Comcast SportsNet.
Spikes answers to the nicknames “TKO” and “Spikedog,” but his parents named him “Takeo” after Japanese Prime Minister Takeo Miki, who served from 1974-76. Takeo means “great warrior” in Japanese. His father, Jimmie, worked in a chalk mining plant, and his mom, Lillie, was a high school special education teacher. Spikes’ first job experience came with his father in the plant. His brother, Brandon Spikes, is a second-year linebacker for the New England Patriots. Following family tradition, Spikes named his daughter Jakai, also a Japanese word that translates as “beautiful flower.”
TRANSACTION HISTORY: First-round pick by Cincinnati (13), April 18, 1998...signed with Bengals, July 25...signed with Buffalo, March 12, 2003...traded to Philadelphia, March 28, 2007...released by Eagles, March 6, 2008...signed with San Francisco, Aug. 11, 2008...re-signed with 49ers, March 4, 2009...signed three-year contract with Chargers, July 30, 2011.
2011: Received a Game Ball after leading the team with 13 tackles in his first game with the Chargers Week 1 against Minnesota...Had his first career sack as a Charger in Week 4 against Miami...Played in his 200th game Week 14 against Buffalo...Spikes had four tackles against the Bills to go over 100 for the second year in a row and the 11th time in his career...Spikes’ interception and 45-yard return in the third quarter in Week 15 against Baltimore led to Mathews’ second score of the night and a 31-7 lead.
2010: Captured 49ers’ Len Eshmont Award as team’s most inspirational and courageous player, as well as its Garry Niver Award from the San Francisco chapter of Pro Football Writers of America for cooperation and professionalism in dealing with media...sealed Oct. 17 win vs. Oakland with late fourth-quarter interception...another pick Nov. 29 at Arizona... tied career-high with 18 tackles Dec. 5 at Green Bay... racked up 18th career pick and third of season Dec. 12 vs. Seattle.
2009: Recipient of 49ers’ Perry/Yonamine Unity Award...season-high 11 tackles and first sack of season Oct. 4 vs. St. Louis.
2008: Recipient of Matt Hazeltine Award as 49ers’ most courageous and inspirational defensive player... tied for team-high with three interceptions and two forced fumbles...second on squad with 122 tackles...first interception since 2004 Sept. 28 off Drew Brees at New Orleans... season-high 14 stops and interception vs. Tom Brady Oct. 6 vs. New England...set 49ers team record for most consecutive games with interception by linebacker after picking off Donovan McNabb Oct. 12 vs. Philadelphia.
2007: Played only 14 games but finished second on Eagles with 139 tackles... season-high 12 stops Sept. 9 at Green Bay, Nov. 4 vs. Dallas and Nov. 11 at Washington...played through torn rotator cuff Dec. 16 at Dallas but placed on “Reserve-Injured” Dec. 19.
2006: Had sack and forced fumble against Brady Sept. 10 at New England returned for touchdown by teammate London Fletcher...inactive weeks 2-5 (hamstring)...season-high 13 tackles in Dec. 31 season finale at Baltimore.
2005: Suffered torn Achilles tendon Sept. 25 vs. Atlanta and placed on “Reserve-Injured” Sept. 28.
2004: Pro Bowl starter..11-yard interception return for touchdown Oct. 17 vs. Miami...interception, forced fumble and two passes defensed Dec. 5 at Miami... two forced fumbles and sack Dec. 12 vs. Cleveland... fumble recovery and 62-yard interception return for score Dec. 19 at Chicago...interception off Daunte Culpepper in Pro Bowl.
2003: First-career Pro Bowl selection...first-career multi-interception game with two picks off Brady Sept. 7 vs. New England...season- high 13 tackles Nov. 16 vs. Houston.
2002: Led Bengals with 171 tackles... career-high 18 stops vs. San Diego Sept. 8...fumble recovery and 45-yard return for touchdown and 24-23 lead at Carolina Dec. 8...two fumble recoveries Nov. 22 vs. New Orleans...16 tackles, forced fumble, fumble recover and half-sack Dec. 29 at Buffalo.
2001: Team-high 173 tackles and career-high six sacks...AFC Defensive Player of Week after 11 tackles and 66-yard interception return for touchdown Sept. 23 vs. Baltimore... season-high 17 stops Nov. 25 at Cleveland and Dec. 23 at Baltimore.
2000: Interception off Tim Couch in Sept. 10 season- opener vs. Cleveland...season-best 14 tackles Sept. 24 vs. Baltimore...two fumble recoveries in Dec. 24 season-finale at Philadelphia.
1999: Led Bengals with three forced fumbles and four recoveries...interception off Jon Kitna Nov. 7 at Seattle...season-high 12 tackles and forced fumble vs. Eddie George Nov. 14 against Tennessee.
1998: First Bengal rookie since 1990 to lead team in tackles (112)...racked up first NFL sack against Green Bay’s Brett Favre on late fourth-quarter fourth down play Sept. 20...season-high 11 stops and sack week later, Sept. 27 at Baltimore.
COLLEGE: Football News’ Defensive Player of Year and Sporting News first-team All-America as junior in 1997...first team All-SEC after leading Tigers with 136 tackles and tying for team lead with nine tackles for loss...Football News honorable mention All-America after 119-tackle season in 1996...won team’s Zeke Smith Award as defensive player of year...co-Defensive MVP of ’96 Independence Bowl vs. Army...freshman All-SEC by Knoxville News-Sentinel after 76-stop season in ’95...applied for NFL Draft following junior season...played at Auburn from 1995-97...liberal arts major.
PERSONAL: Born in Augusta, Ga....USA Today All-America at Washington County High in Sandersville, Ga....named Georgia’s “Mr. Football” in 1994 after leading school to 15-0 record and state title during 181-tackle, 21-sack and 31- tackle for loss season...Georgia Player of Year by Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Associated Press.
The San Diego Chargers tied for the top record in the AFC West last year with an 8-8 mark. Relive each memorable win as we break down some of the greatest moments from the 2011 season. We continue with Week 15’s impressive victory over the Baltimore Ravens.
The San Diego Chargers tied for the top record in the AFC West last year with an 8-8 mark. Relive each memorable win as we break down some of the greatest moments from the 2011 season. We continue with Week 4’s big win against Miami.
The San Diego Chargers tied for the top record in the AFC West last year with an 8-8 mark. Relive each memorable win as we break down some of the greatest moments from the 2011 season. First up is the opening day victory vs. Minnesota.