Fully recovered, Jesse Schmidt keeps shattering records while eyeing the NFL
Jesse Schmidt's comeback story just keeps on getting better and better. The former Laurens-Marathon and Buena Vista University star is finding his stride in the Arena 2 league.
The wide receiver was just beginning the comeback process from a ACL tear, an injury that requires extensive rehab and can mean the end of many athletes' careers entirely.
Schmidt's injury cost him a tryout with the Green Pay Packers. Fortunately, the career-ending part didn't apply to Schmidt, and you could say he's back on track now.
After breaking Buena Vista's records for career receiving yards, career receptions, and touchdowns in a season, Schmidt has continued his record-breaking ways with the Quad City Steamwheelers this summer. In his first full season in the arena league, he hauled in an incredible 41 touchdowns to top the franchise mark previously held by the man who is now his own offensive coordinator.
The 1799 yards he totaled this season rank second best all time. He also led his team in receptions as he brought in 131 catches this year.
"I wasn't really too focused on stats this season," said Schmidt. "I was just happy to be back out there. I was so focused during the game that I broke the record in that I didn't even realize I had it until later on."
Schmidt's long path to recovery saw him miss the the Steamwheelers' season last year after going down in the opening drive of the first game, but since then it's been smooth sailing for the receiver.
"The first game back was just a little shaky," he recalled. "It was the only one that the knee was really a problem for me at all. After that game, I didn't even think about it the rest of the season. I had enough other little bumps and bruises to keep my mind off it."
While the knee has held up to the pressure, Schmidt had to put even more upon himself to get readjusted to the game after missing so much time.
"The biggest thing was just to get adjusted to the speed of the game again," he said. "I had all the mental reps but not the physical ones. They came around though, and I was happy with the way I adjusted to it this year. It's a lot different here in the arena game. It's a lot quicker pace than college football and a lot more passing. In college you might just get a couple of passes your way, but in the arena game you're going to get your receptions. Receivers are really the focus of the attack."
To make sure he was able to get back to the level of performance he knew he was capable of, Schmidt and his quarterback, J.J. Raterink, put in the extra hours together to form one of the arena leagues most explosive QB/WR tandems.
"J.J. came into the Quad Cities early this year before camp started and we just got down to work," said Schmidt. "We watched film together, worked on our timing and routes, looked at defenses and where we can make adjustments. J.J. and I are good friends. We basically know what the other one's thinking and can just feed off each other on the field, but when we get out there it's business. We always kept that in mind."
That tandem is one, if not the main, reason for Quad City's run into the playoffs this season. Schmidt was the primary target all year for Raterink as he threw 96 touchdowns in the regular season. Their first round opponent is the top seed in the Arena Cup playoffs, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
"It's always nice to be in the playoffs," expressed the receiver. "We're the last seed, but anything can happen. Especially in arena football. We beat them the first game of the season, and they pounded us the second time we played against each other. We know we're a talented team, and we're really coming together and clicking at the right time. We're a team that can beat anyone, but we can lose to anyone too. I'm just ready to get the first round started."
With the playoffs just beginning the BVU alum hasn't had much time to worry too much about getting another NFL tryout, but it is a goal that is ever-present in his mind.
"The NFL guys talk more to the coaches than to us," conveyed Schmidt. "With the playoffs starting right now they need us more focused on that anyway. I know there is one team that has some interest though. After the season, I'll be staying here in the Quad Cities area working in an acceleration program to improve my speed and footwork."
Schmidt's partner in crime this season is going to linger as they will both push towards the next level together.
"J.J. is going to stick around here too," said Schmidt. "So, we are going to work together and try to keep the rust off. We've got an indoor facility lined up that we can use a few times a week and stay sharp. I'm just going to keep trying to become a better football player and we'll see what calls come in. We'll just keep working and be ready for any tryouts that do come up."
Schmidt and the Steamwheelers look to keep rolling against the top-seeded WBC Pioneers. Kickoff is 6 P.M. today.