My dad said, "Okay, where are you going to go?" I said, "Dad, I want to go to Michigan." And he said, "You traitor. I'll tell you where you're going. You're going right down 71 South and you're going to play for the Ohio State Buckeyes. ... Better not go there (Michigan). Don't ever come home if you do."
Spielman was a two-time All-American at Ohio State, intercepted 11 passes, and won the Lombardi Award as the best college football lineman or linebacker. He was the Ohio State football team MVP his senior year and won the Touchdown Club of Columbus's Chic Harley Award. He graduated from Ohio State with a degree in recreation education. In the 1988 NFL Draft, Spielman was drafted in the second round with the 29th overall pick by the Detroit Lions.
Spielman played eight seasons with the Lions (1988–95), where he was a defensive stalwart during the team's run to four playoff appearances, two NFC Central titles, and a berth in the 1991 NFC Championship Game. He captained the Lions' defense that was one of the best statistically in the NFL in the mid-1990s. Spielman is the franchise's all-time leader in career tackles with 1,020 (since the team began recording tackles statistically in 1973.) He also recorded 10 sacks, four interceptions, 30 pass defenses, 13 forced fumbles and 17 fumble recoveries during his Lions' career. He was the first Lion to lead the team in tackles seven consecutive seasons since 1973, including the team's highest single-season tally 195 tackles in 1994.
Spielman represented the Lions in four Pro Bowls (1990–92, 1995) and was named the team's defensive MVP in 1993 and 1994. He played for the Buffalo Bills in 1996 and 1997. In 1996, he set a team and personal record with 206 tackles. His 1997 season was limited because of a neck injury that required spinal surgery.
He chose to miss the 1998 season to assist his wife battling cancer.
He returned to the NFL in the 1999 season, with the Cleveland Browns. He retired before the regular season began, after suffering another neck injury. Spielman is also notable for being one of the players notable NFL Draft "guru" Mel Kiper, Jr. has "missed" on, Kiper admitting in a 2001 post that he had underrated the linebacker. In April 2009 Spielman was elected into the College Football Hall of Fame. His induction came in July 2010. In 2012, he appeared in an episode of the NFL Network show A Football Life, the episode showed how he was not only a great player on the field but a great man off the field for his family.
Chris Spielman's broadcasting career started in 1999, as an NFL studio-show analyst for Fox Sports Net. After two years with FSN, Spielman joined ESPN in 2001. He served primarily as a color analyst for college football broadcasts, as well as studio analyst for college football. Spielman is also a contributor to the Columbus-based FM radio station 97.1 The Fan, an ESPN Radio affiliate. He previously hosted the show Spielman on Sports. Spielman used to appear every Tuesday afternoon on AM 1270 WXYT, a sports-talk radio station out of Detroit. Spielman has served as a color analyst for the Detroit Lions during the NFL preseason. In 2006, Spielman hosted a reality series on ESPNU called Summer House.
Spielman and his late wife Stefanie raised four children: Madison, Noah, Macy and Audrey. Mrs. Spielman survived four bouts with breast cancer, during which both she and her husband were active in raising funds for breast cancer research. While undergoing treatment, she lost her hair, prompting Spielman to shave his head in a show of solidarity. Stefanie died on November 19, 2009, after the disease returned for the fifth time.