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Spikes epitomized toughness for Bengals

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The Bengals honored legendary linebacker Takeo Spikes at their first 50 countdown Thursday during the halftime show at Paul Brown Stadium. Photo by Michel Mitchell

By Conrad Clowers

Cincinnati Herald Contributor

If you look up the meaning of the word Takeo you’ll find it means warrior. When it comes to Takeo Spikes, nobody is more aptly named. When you look back on some of the Bengals teams in the 1990’s and early 2000’s some of the first words that may come to mind is ‘loss,’ ‘underachievers.’ ‘unwatchable.’ There were a few things those people in charge of the Bengals back in those days did do right.

In 1998, the Bengals hit the jackpot with their first round draft. They chose a linebacker out of Auburn. The linebacker they chose was Spikes. Spikes would go on to have one of the most remarkable careers in Bengal history. From the second he played his first game in Cincinnati he was an impact player.

Spikes would spend five seasons in stripes. He became a starter from day one and led the Bengals in tackles.

Sadly for Spikes he was one of the few bright spots on those late 90’s early 2000’s Bengals teams that rarely won. After the Bengals suffered their worst season of 2-14 in 2002, Spikes had had enough. None of the Bengals teams Spikes was on ever finished higher than 6-10. Not even the hiring of a new upstart coach Marvin Lewis was enough to keep Spikes around. He admittedly became sick of losing.

After his 5-year stint with the Bengals the Augusta, Georgia, native would go on to a new chapter in his life and play 4 years with the Buffalo Bills. Though he would never see playoff action in Buffalo either, it was then that he finally got the recognition he so richly deserved around the NFL. During his time with the Buffalo Bills he would make the Pro-Bowl twice and be named all- pro once in 2004. By the time the Bengal legend’s career was over he would play with a total of five teams (Cincinnati, Buffalo, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and San Diego) that covered a span of 15 seasons.

This past Thursday the Bengals finally had the chance to honor the Bengal legend at their first 50 countdown. Spikes was voted and named #19 on the top 50 retired Bengals list. Some say #19 for this legendary linebacker was way too high and he should have been much lower on the list. Of the 18 players who were voted lower on the top 50 list than Spikes, only five did not play in one of the Bengals two Super Bowl appearances. Spikes says he didn’t hold any animosity towards Cincinnati when he left. “I just wanted to win,” said the Bengal legend.

Spikes will likely go down in the same class as players like Archie Manning, who played their entire careers at an extremely high level and always played on teams that underachieved. He is arguably a Hall of Fame player and will likely receive much consideration for the honor. For now, Bengals fans got to see one of the most underrated legends get his just due.

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