The Buffalo Bills thought they had something special in C.J. Spiller.
In the old days, teams used extremely high draft picks on running backs. Buffalo drafted Spiller that early hoping either he’d be the speedy partner with Marshawn Lynch’s bruising ability, or that Spiller would outright replace the controversial running back.
Over a decade after he debuted with the Buffalo Bills, Spiller is pursuing another career — and he’s learning from a legend in the process.
C.J. Spiller was an explosive running back
Newer football trends mean some of the NFL’s best current running backs weren’t drafted in the first round.
This is a relevant point because the Buffalo Bills used the ninth overall pick on C.J. Spiller in 2010. Spiller played his way into being drafted that high because he earned unanimous All-American honors at Clemson in 2009 and averaged 5.9 yards per carry in his four seasons with the Tigers.
An explosive running back, Spiller scored 51 all-purpose touchdowns in college, including eight on special teams.
Spiller flashed that explosiveness at times but never became the star Buffalo thought he would. In seven seasons, five with the Bills, Spiller ran for 3,321 yards and 12 touchdowns on five yards per carry.
Spiller turned 198 receptions into 1,484 yards and nine touchdowns. He also scored two kickoff return touchdowns in his first three seasons.
Spiller cashed in during his NFL career
C.J. Spiller entered the NFL at the right time.
The 2010 NFL draft was the last one where the value of rookie contracts wasn’t determined based on where, specifically, teams drafted the player.
As the ninth overall pick in 2010, Spiller signed a five-year, $25 million deal with Buffalo with nearly $21 million guaranteed.
According to Spotrac, Spiller earned nearly $30 million in the NFL. Spotrac reported that Spiller ranks 42nd all-time among running backs in career earnings.
Spiller’s $29.6 million barely trails former Ravens star Ray Rice, who earned $29.7 million.
C.J. Spiller is now beginning a coaching career
At 33 years old, C.J. Spiller’s career is almost certainly over.
Spiller hasn’t played in the NFL since 2017 and already moved into the next step of his life: coaching at the college level.
Spiller returned to Clemson this year to earn his master’s degree. At the same time, Spiller is serving as an unpaid graduate assistant.
According to The State, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney told reporters this summer that he was “very excited” to have Spiller join the team.
“He told me on Sunday he was wanting to start his coaching career. He’s gonna get his Masters in athletic leadership. He actually joined us today, so I’m really excited about having that guy.”
Spiller is working with Clemson’s talented running back group. Travis Etienne, the lead back, is a projected early-round pick in next year’s NFL draft.
All contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.