GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Strength, grit and resilience are the makings of any great offensive lineman — much like Purdue’s Spencer Holstege. The West Michigan native and South Christian grad embodied those traits from an early age.

In fact, his father, Todd Holstege, knew his son would need that drive just days after being born. 

“He didn’t look right. As soon as the nurse saw Spencer, she grabbed him out of my hands … went sprinting down, down to a hallway, to an elevator, and we’re asking, ‘what’s going on?’ … ‘what are you concerned about?'” said Todd Holstege. “We didn’t know what was going on.”

Spencer Holstege was suffering from meningitis and E. coli. He spent four days in the ICU and over a month in the hospital.

“I almost died from it,” said Spencer Holstege. “But God still wants me here, so I’ve taken every advantage of it.”

Looking at Spencer Holstege today, you’d never be able to tell he was fighting for his life as an infant. Luckily, he made a full recovery and didn’t experience any severe side effects from the illness, other than a strong appetite for milk.

“He’s called the milkman at Purdue,” said Todd Holstege. “He drinks over a gallon of milk a day.”

That must be the secret to raising a 6-foot-5, 310 pound lineman. Todd Holstege said that Spencer Holstege once went through 18 gallons in a week. Sure enough, all that calcium fueled him to reach one of football’s highest levels, as a three-year starter for the Boilermakers.

“It’s a real blessing. We know how much of a blessing it is to have a son play at this level, let alone start,” said Todd Holstege. 

Considering how fragile the beginning of his life once was, Spencer Holstege is proud to live his purpose, driven by faith and football.

“He is not afraid. Every game he goes down to the end zone and takes a knee. Not to say ‘oh look at me I’m praying’, but to honor God and to ask him for strength, but also to play to his glory,” said Todd Holstege.

“It’s a blessing, and I’m thankful for it,” said Spencer Holstege.