Just like when David Carr was a rookie in 2002, the current state of the NFL just keeps taking hit after hit after hit. Many of the league’s players routinely are involved in off-the-field incidents that make fans shake their heads and Roger Goodell dish out suspensions faster than Devin Hester can run a 40.
Most of these players are idiots that live in a dream world, where the only things that matter are themselves and the “fun” that they have. These kinds of players deserve what Goodell and their respective teams give them for punishments.
However, there are a few that have made mistakes and have gotten in trouble with the law that really are not bad or stupid individuals. While they deserve to be punished, these people in the minority should truly be given a second chance and be welcomed back with open arms by the league, their teammates and their fans. One such individual is Owen Schmitt.
Schmitt just pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of reckless driving after being arrested for suspicion of DUI.
If you know Schmitt’s story of who he is as a person and the journey that his life has taken him on in order for him to become that person, you would know in an instant that he made a mistake…a big, big mistake in Black Diamond, WA on June 25 and that it isn’t like him to do such a thing.
In the USA Today article, you learn how Schmitt grew up with his grandparents in a tiny town of not even 500 people and how he had to endure a lot physically and emotionally as a child. Schmitt was born with a cleft palate and had numerous surgeries to fix it, one in which a piece of his hip bone was placed into his jaw. All the while he was teased by his peers.
In living with his grandparents, Schmitt discovered his love for the game of football. The USA Today article describes how his grandfather was the football coach for the town football team. Schmitt helped out with his grandfather’s team. He was in charge of water bottles and kicking tees.
In the sixth grade, Schmitt went to a football camp with high schoolers. While trying to fit in, little did Schmitt know that he was showing off his abilities to one of his eventual college coaches. John O’Grady was that coach.
According to the USA Today article, when Schmitt was a senior in high school, he never got a single recruiting letter offering him a scholarship to play the game that he truly loved. So, his grandfather came to the rescue. Schmitt’s grandfather talked to O’Grady, the coach that had the camp that Schmitt attended as a sixth grader and the coach that ran the program at Division III Wisconsin-River Falls.
O’Grady decided to take Schmitt on and, after only a brief time practicing with the team, realized that Schmitt was too good for the Division III level. In his one year at Wisconsin-River Falls, Schmitt started nine games and averaged 5.5 yards per carry, totaling 1,063 yards and five touchdowns on 193 carries.
He left Wisconsin-River Falls and enrolled at West Virginia after driving to the school in Morgantown during Winter Break with his mother during his freshman year at Wisconsin-River Falls. Despite earning All-Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference honors, WVU’s coach at the time, Rich Rodriguez, didn’t offer Schmitt a scholarship. Schmitt had to walk on.
During his walk-on year at WVU, the USA Today article depicts the never-ending determination and work ethic that Schmitt had to earn a scholarship during scout team and weight room sessions.
The hard work paid off, the USA Today article goes on to tell. Schmitt earned his scholarship at WVU after that walk-on season and became a campus legend based off of his work ethic and his fearless style of play in order to help his team win games. Schmitt’s jersey was constantly flying off the shelves at the WVU bookstore alongside jerseys of teammates Pat White and Steve Slaton. There even was a shirt made just for him for fans to buy; it read “Schmitt happens”.
Despite the campus-wide, and eventually a national, popularity, Schmitt never got into trouble. He just kept doing what he did best: be a great athlete and teammate, and off-the-field ambassador of the school, his community and family.
Schmitt was selected in the fifth round with the 163RD overall pick by the Seahawks in the 2008 NFL Draft, and Seahawk message boards instantly got bombarded with posts from Mountaineer fans in Morgantown gushing about Schmitt and how he was a highly skilled and relentless athlete and a stand-up act off it as well.
While I don’t condone what Schmitt did in Black Diamond, I do believe he should be given a second chance by the Seahawks and the league as a whole. He could have seriously hurt himself and others, for which he deserves to be punished, but he should not be released or suspended by the league. I propose a 2-4 game regular season suspension without pay and some sort of community service in addition to that which is included in his legal sentence. This additional community service should be associated with really truly giving back to the community by reaching out to teens and college students about drinking and driving while intoxicated.
Schmitt has an amazing career before him, hopefully all of it with the Seahawks. I love his style of play and who he is off the field as an individual. I truly see him as a “lifer” with the Seahawks and becoming a fan favorite that will be talked about long after he retires, much like fullback and Seahawk great Mack Strong. I truly hope that Schmitt is given a second chance to prove that what he did, while extremely stupid, dangerous and illegal, is not who he truly is and that he has learned from this experience and will grow from it off the field in addition to becoming an integral piece of the Seahawks’ offense for many, many years.
NOTE: Details about Schmitt’s past, excluding statistics accumulated at Wisconsin-River Falls, were drawn from paraphrased material from the November 4, 2006 USA Today article that was linked to earlier in the article, which can also be found HERE and from my own prior knowledge.