Former CFL all-star Diontae Spencer credits work in Canada for first NFL touchdown

Former Canadian Football League all-star Diontae Spencer proved his ability as a dynamic returner north of the border and it’s paid off in the NFL.

Spencer scored an electric 83-yard punt return touchdown for the Broncos in Denver’s Week 14 win over Carolina — the first score of his NFL career. That earned Spencer AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honours.

“Trying to get into the end zone and create a spark for this team, I felt like I did that,” Spencer said in his post-game video conference.

“I had a couple peeks, looked down, and felt I that I could’ve caught the ball, and once I did that, I just let everything else take over and got in the end zone.”

The McNeese State University product starred in the CFL. He had his first 1,000-yard receiving season in 2018, accumulating 2,691 total yards and eight touchdowns which earned a league all-star nod for the first time in his career. In 2017, Spencer set a new CFL single-game mark with 496 all-purpose yards while playing for the Ottawa Redblacks.

“Even from the CFL, I work on my craft each and every day, and finally, it happened,” Spencer said.

“I take a lot of pride in what I do. One of the things I said before this game was just being dynamic and helping this team out any way I could.”

Diontae Spencer will give jersey from record-breaking game to mom

Contracting COVID-19 didn’t slow Spencer down on the field. He tested positive for coronavirus near the end of November and missed two games. While Spencer was out of the lineup, special teams coordinator Tim McMahon admitted the job of the person fielding punts was to fair catch and not actually try to advance the football.

“Those two weeks were rough. When I came back to practice everybody embraced me, excited for me to get back, it just shows how much this team believes in me,” Spencer said.

Spencer accumulated 644 return yards in 2019, which ranked 10th in the entire NFL. He was named a Pro Bowl alternate for his efforts and earned $495,000 USD in salary overall. The diminutive playmaker is making $675,000 USD for the 2020 NFL season.

“Me and coach Vic [Fangio] we’ve been talking about this since I got here. Just knowing that he believes in me, he knows that I can do it, I just want to go out there and deliver for this team,” Spencer said.

“For me to go back there and do that, I don’t know how long it’s been, but I know it’s been a while since they scored a punt return touchdown. That’s just for everybody on that special teams unit.”

It was the Broncos first punt return touchdown since Week 8 of the 2015 season. Spencer caught the punt with a Panthers gunner sprinting straight at him, he sidestepped the attempted tackle, juked another opposition player with his own teammate in the way, bounced left, burst through a seam and took it down the sidelines.

“Thrilled to death that Spence finally got it. Him and I have had many short conversations since he’s been here about him taking one to the house,” Fangio said.

“There was many times where I felt it was going to happen, in previous games he’s come close. I was almost as thrilled as he was that he got it, but I don’t think anybody could exceed his thrill.”

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