Wednesday, July 25, 2001

Ailing father always on Spikes' mind

But LB primed to lead defense

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        GEORGETOWN, Ky. — Takeo Spikes can count on his fingers the times he has told his father he loves him. Saturday was one of those times.

        At his parents' insistence, the Bengals linebacker left his ailing father's bedside and reported Sunday to training camp.

        But before departing Sandersville, Ga., where Jimmie Spikes' condition had stabilized, Takeo had to say it.

        “He's kind of like the silent treatment,” Takeo Spikes says. “The other day was kind of hard for me to tell him. I could hardly look him in the eye. I don't think he could look me in the eye, either. But I finally got it out.”

        Then Takeo gave his father a hug, another rarity.

        “It's usually, "Get off me, boy,'” Takeo says. Not Saturday.

        Jimmie Spikes, who's 61 and retired from a mining company, had a brain tumor removed in February. Last week, after undergoing months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, he slipped in and out of consciousness, unable to recognize his family. The problem was identified as a blood sugar imbalance.

        Takeo Spikes was given permission by coach Dick LeBeau to miss the start of camp to remain with his father.

        Spikes had sat out most of May's voluntary workouts after having arthroscopic surgery in March to clean out his left shoulder. But he has shown no rust.

        He can concentrate on football because his father is feeling better. His mother, Lilly, is at Jimmie's side, and Spikes' three siblings, too. His sister, who's 20 and lives with Takeo while attending nursing school in Atlanta, moved home for the summer to help her mom. Two older brothers, a truck driver and a teacher, take turns at home.

        “As a son, you don't want to be the one leaving just because it's football, saying, "You'll be all right,'” Takeo says. “When he told me to go, it took a lot of pressure off my shoulders. It's not like there's a stranger there, like I had to hire somebody. This is my own flesh and blood that's there.”

        Father and son talk on the phone two to three times a day. Takeo has dedicated his season to his dad. One of the Bengals' most passionate players has found another well of motivation to draw from.

        He'll write his dad's name on the tape he wraps around his wrists, the same place he wrote the No.56 for njured teammate Brian Simmons last year.

        “The tape doesn't really signify everything,” Takeo says. “In my mind, I know he'll want me to go out and play the way he's always seen me play and urged me to play. I may get tired one play and just bend over and see his name.”

        He'll take his role as defensive captain even more seriously.

        “Awesome numbers,” is how the Bengals' leading tackler foresees his season. He's 24 now and entering his fourth season.

        “I'm telling you, man, they always say, "You can take a horse to the trough, but you can't make 'em drink.' Damn,” he says, “I'm going to make them drink this year. I'm telling you, man. Each year, I keep coming back saying, "I wish I'd done this, done that.' But I've got the situation at hand. We've got Brian back. We've got everybody back. If I'm slacking, get on me; but if anybody else is slacking, I'll be the first one jumping down their throat.”

        That leadership already is showing in camp. “Me being the captain, you probably hear some guys saying, "C'mon, Spikes, go tell him (LeBeau) to chill out on the gassers.' Go ahead and put it to us, "Full Metal Jacket,' baby, that's what we need.'”

        Football is a respite. His father and mother will always be on his mind. “But every time I get a down time, or a time when I'd pick up a book to read something, that's the time when I think about it,” Spikes says.

        “It's been rough on her. I just admire her because she's a strong individual. Being there every day, seeing him going through all the changes. Us, being there half the time, it was hard on me.

        “He is my Superman. Everybody talks about having a role model. Well, he's my role model. Strong man. He's one of the old breed of guys back in the South, had to do what he had to do, quit school to keep the house going because his father died at a young age.

        “He's a strong-willed individual. He plans on beating it. We plan on beating it together.”


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