Robert Spillane has continued the football legacy of his family as a veteran linebacker in the National Football League.

He’s just as excited to continue the lessons of paying it forward from his parents, Michael and Gretchen.

The 2014 Fenwick High School graduate is holding his first free F.A.M.I.L.Y. Youth Football Camp from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on July 16 at Priory Park, the Friars’ practice field.

“Spending my childhood in Oak Park, I have so many great memories of the youth huskies football program and to go out and give back alongside my family is great,” said Spillane, who signed with the Las Vegas Raiders on March 16 as a free agent after playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers the past four seasons.

“This is an opportunity to give back to the community I love the best way I know,” he said. “It’s definitely been on my mind, something I’ve wanted to do.” 

Camp sessions are 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. for ages 7-13, and 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for ages 14-18. 

Registration via the website has been overwhelming. 

Event coordinator Aaron Garland, Spillane’s longtime friend and a 2015 Fenwick graduate, said the first session’s 50 slots filled quickly and then another 25 added. Spots remain for the second session. 

“I’ve always said if a kid absolutely wants to be a part of the camp, show up July 16 and we’ll do all we can to make that happen,” Spillane said. “It’s not just about football and skills training, but I want to instill a sense of inspiration to go out and accomplish your dream. It’s a series of intentional actions that get you to where you want to go. If it’s worth earning and if you put your heart and soul into it, it’s attainable.”

Spillane’s grandfather, Johnny Lattner, won college football’s Heisman Trophy with Notre Dame in 1953 and also played football at Fenwick and with the Steelers. Spillane attended the 2016 Heisman awards ceremony to commemorate the passing of Lattner that February.

Spillane’s seasons with the Steelers included Tuesday volunteer events. He fondly recalls visiting children, veterans and breast cancer patients, delivering Christmas presents and serving meals to the homeless.

“It really brought me joy, any opportunity I got. [Children] thought I’m special because I have that jersey and just to make kids smile, laugh, bring them that moment of joy, that’s how I got that joy,” Spillane said.

“I grew up very blue collar. [My parents] worked for everything they have and were still willing to help everyone at every opportunity. My dad was always a stand-up person, a really shining example of that.” 

Spillane’s football work ethic carried him from a two-time second-team All-Mid-American Conference player at Western Michigan to signing with the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent and playing his first two NFL games in 2018.

Spillane is coming off his best season with the Steelers, playing all 16 games with a personal-best 67 tackles (40 solo).

Spillane wore No. 41, the same uniform number as Lattner in his one season as a Steelers halfback.

“I got to see him every day on that 1954 roster. There’s not a day or moment I don’t think about him and making his legacy proud,” Spillane said. 

Besides joining the Raiders this offseason, Spillane married Shelby Hague on June 25. They attended Fenwick together but didn’t date until after college. They spent their honeymoon in Chicago.

“We were exploring the city we knew as kids, but I’ve been away so long so it was fun to get back,” Spillane said. “This year is a big year for me, being in a new organization, a new opportunity. It’s really a chance to stake my claim to be a dominant linebacker in this league.”

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