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Spellacy leaves five NCAA Division I scholarship offers on the table to sign with Spitfires

AJ Spellacy had five NCAA Division I football scholarship offers on the table and that number would only grow with two more years of high school to go. Instead, the 6-foot-1 and 75-pound Spellacy officially retired from football on Wednesday and signed a standard player and education package to join the Windsor Spitfires. “I’m going to miss football a little bit, but I’m focused on hockey,” said Spellacy, 16. “I thought about it for a long time. It was really easy once I got all the information, which I love and want to take it further and that was hockey.” Spitfires general manager Bill Bowler rolled the dice in style using a third-round pick to take Spellacy into the third round of April’s Ontario Hockey League Draft. “There were no guarantees, but it was a calculated risk,” Bowler said. The Spitfires hoped that the city’s proximity to their home in suburban Cleveland would make the move a little easier. The club also had a connection to Spellacy’s agent. More than a decade after helping the Spitfires win the Memorial Cup title, Kenny Ryan, who serves as Spellacy’s agent at the Kaizen Sports Agency, has secured another assist for Windsor. “With me playing at Windsor, it was a phenomenal organization,” Ryan said. “It’s a first class organization where a lot of players would like to play, but for me that’s what (Spelacy) would like to do? It was what he wanted to do and what was his passion going forward.” If Spellacy had been committed to the OHL from the start, Ryan said he would have been a first-round pick in this year’s draft. “There is a team that said they would take him in the first round, but only if he was committed and not ready to commit,” Ryan said. Still, Ryan credits the Spitfires for rolling the dice early in Spellacy, with most teams hoping to take a pamphlet about a non-league committed player later in the draft. The Spitfires did this to Ryan in 2007, when the club took him in the seventh round of the OHL Draft. The former Toronto Maple Leafs’ second-round pick played two years with the United States National Team Development Program before heading to Boston College, but dropped out in his freshman year to join the Spitfires. “Selecting American players, there are always risks,” Ryan said. “Is he going to sign or come to camp? That’s where Billy, being the GM that he is, was a selection he felt he had to make there. “Windsor summoned him, but there was nothing set for him to go there. After he was drafted, it was more recruiting. AJ wasn’t ready to commit and it wasn’t just to Windsor but to hockey or a USHL team or colleges.” Spellacy and his family made a few trips to Windsor to chat and watch some playoff games and the Cleveland Barons 15 product quickly fell in love with everything about the team. “The fans were amazing,” Spellacy said. “All the facilities are top of the line and the city is awesome. That played a big role.” His father John Spellacy played linebacker at Marshall University and his older brother John Spellacy Jr. played on the East Carolina University football team. “They both talked to me about it, but ultimately it was my decision to do what I want to do,” said Spellacy, who noted that her father and brother also played hockey growing up. “I probably would have gotten a lot more (soccer scholarship offers) but for me hockey is so much more fun and less stress on your body.” With Spellacy, hockey’s potential is just scratching the surface at this point. A free safety and wide receiver in football, he often didn’t enter hockey until the end of November each year. “I never trained for hockey,” Spellacy said. “I’m working a lot. I hope my potential is high.” A right-handed center who can play as a winger, Bowler and Ryan refer to Spellacy as an elite skater. “He’s an athlete (two sports) and that he chose hockey and the Windsor Spitfires, we’re ecstatic,” Bowler said. “This is a raw player with unlimited potential and unlimited skill. “We just saw a great potential talent for our hockey club. Just an athletic kid with determination and drive. For a guy that size, his skating is already elite. A big frame that covers a lot of ice. A very good player that with more repetitions we see the future is so bright.” He attended the US NTDP camp in March, but the fact that he didn’t make the cut, or his decision to weigh his options might have cost him a first-round selection in the OHL Draft, doesn’t weigh much on his mind. “I don’t mind,” Spellacy said. “I signed. It doesn’t matter which round you get caught in; you still have to show what you can do. “I was chosen by the Spitfires, so that was amazing. I know where I’m going to play and you move on. Other things don’t matter anymore.”

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