Twice an AAU champion while at Brown University, John Spellman could not get permission from the dean of students to attend the 1924 Olympic Trials. He went anyway and was refused permission to graduate with his class, although he had fulfilled all the requirements. Spellman was a noted athlete; he was a tackle on the football team, and captained both the football and wrestling squads in his senior year. After college, Spellman became a professional wrestler and football player. He played for eight years in the NFL with the Providence Steamrollers, retiring in 1932, and then coaching the Boston Redskins of the NFL. In 1936 Spellman went on a world tour with his wrestling troupe and arrived in Africa in 1938. When World War II broke out he was unable to return to the States, and he lived the rest of his life in Africa as a mining engineer.