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Pro MACtion Update: Spillane brings the hit stick off the bench for Pittsburgh

The undrafted inside linebacker out of Western Michigan headlines this week’s MAC alumni with a tremendous “next man up” performance.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

MAC football is almost back, and we’re already getting excited about the TV schedule for the opening night of action on Nov. 4. While the current student-athletes prepare for their upcoming games, the players who use to start on Wednesday nights are making statements as professionals.

The Week 6 edition of Pro MACtion Update includes four players which all attended college around a similar time in the mid-2010s. From an undrafted linebacker stepping up for a breakout performance to a third round receiver starring in Detroit, here are notable performances from former MAC stars this past weekend.

Robert Spillane, ILB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Western Michigan — 2014-17

Western Michigan faithful will best remember Spillane for his game-winning interception to seal the 2016 MAC Championship for the Broncos, a play which wound up clinching a Cotton Bowl appearance for the program. Spillane, a four-year starter and two-time All-MAC selection in Kalamazoo, was signed by the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent in 2018. His NFL journey has since landed in Pittsburgh, where he is in his second season as a Steeler.

Sunday’s 38-7 victory over the Browns brought out the best we’ve seen from Spillane since becoming a professional. He stepped into the inside linebacker spot after a first half injury to Steelers’ starter Devin Bush. Spillane, with only nine defensive snaps under his belt, elevated his game and became one of the Browns’ greatest nightmares in the blowout. The Western Michigan graduate ranked second on the team in tackles with six and blew up a screen for a loss of six toward the end of the third quarter. Overall, Spillane played 30 snaps and proved he will be a reliable option for the Steelers at inside linebacker in the wake of Bush’s absence.

Andrew Wylie, OG, Kansas City Chiefs

Eastern Michigan — 2013-16

Wylie had a scare earlier this season when appendicitis sent him to the hospital in late September. The hospitalization resulted in Wylie missing the team’s Monday Night Football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 3.

The Eastern Michigan alum eventually recovered to play 100% of offensive snaps in the Chiefs’ following two games against the Patriots and Raiders. Wylie was in action once again on Monday evening and paved the way for the Kansas City rushing attack to attain 245 yards on 5.3 yards per carry. Most importantly, Wylie earned a spot on the highlight reel by delivering a pancake so massive that IHOP couldn’t even serve it on a plate.

Tarell Basham, DE, New York Jets

Ohio — 2013-16

The 2016 MAC Defensive Player of the Year was one of the most violent pass rushers in the conference during his time at Ohio. Basham registered 27 sacks and 38.5 tackles for loss while suiting up in the green and white in college. Donning similar colors in the NFL, the former third round pick is still breaking past offensive lines.

Basham registered his first sack of the 2020 NFL season in the Jets’ 24-0 loss to the Dolphins on Sunday afternoon. It was the fifth sack of Basham’s NFL career, and the ex-Bobcat is on pace to experience career numbers this fall. He already owns a career-high three starts through six games this season and has recorded 11 tackles and six QB hits. As the only winless team in the NFL, almost nothing is going right for the Jets right now, but Basham will receive an opportunity to break through and prove he’s part of the longterm solution.

Kenny Golladay, WR, Detroit Lions

Northern Illinois — 2015-16

Golladay will certainly make headlines on a weekly basis as one of the top MAC players in the NFL. He led the entire league in touchdown receptions a season ago, and he’s working to sustain his 2019 production as the Lions’ No. 1 receiving option. Golladay caught four passes for 105 yards in Sunday’s 34-16 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, improving Detroit to 2-3 after the team started 0-2 without him.

The Northern Illinois product has increased his receiving output in each of his three games this season, culminating in his first 100-yard performance since Nov. 28, 2019. Golladay made another spectacular grab for his highlight reel against Jacksonville’s secondary, perfectly timing his jump to snatch Matthew Stafford’s deep ball out of midair.