As readers are well aware, this space is big, big time on Pete Schmitt. I've already called Pete Schmitt as a lock to make the team, and chose him in our Adopt-A-Redskin program to follow throughout the offseason. However much I appreciated Pete Schmitt then, consider it doubled and then some now, as he very graciously agreed to take time out of his busy schedule to answer a few of my questions. Below you'll find an interview with him where he discusses, among other things, the changing coaching staff, Mike Sellers, the normalcy of a Midwestern accent, delicious Miller Lite, and the very fascinating process he's currently in that can turn a substitute teacher into a Professional Football player overnight. Please enjoy. Side note: I am indebted to Pete Schmitt's agent, John Perla, Jr, for his assistance in setting this up. As far as Hogs Haven is concerned, John is the best agent in the biz.
Hogs Haven: This is actually your second stint with the Redskins, as you spent the 2007 season with the team until a shoulder injury ended with you off the roster. How is the shoulder feeling and will it have any impact on your making the team this season?
Pete Schmitt: The shoulder is back to where I want it to be. It was very frustrating how everything went down last year, especially with the position I was in heading into training camp '07. I have regained all my strength back in the shoulder and as far as I'm concerned, it's 100%. I've been really working both of the shoulders this offseason to try and avoid something like this happening again.
Hogs Haven: In College you were an All-WIAC tight end but are now being groomed, as a professional player, as a fullback. What's been the hardest part of that transition?
Pete Schmitt: The biggest challenge of the position change for me was getting used to blocking in space. At the DIII Level, I pretty much lined up in the tight end position every play. Now in the backfield, there's a lot of distance between you and a linebacker for example. That took a little adjusting, but it's fun in the same way because you can use some athleticism working in that open space. Also, I had never taken a handoff before rookie camp last year, so that has taken some getting used to.
HH: Your first stint with the team was under the Joe Gibbs regime, but you apparently impressed someone within the organization enough to get a second chance months after Coach Gibbs retired and not too long after Jim Zorn was named the Head Coach. There's still some coaching continuity between the two regimes, even on offense, specifically with guys like Joe Bugel and Rennie Simmons. Any idea who went to bat for you the 2nd time around, if anyone?
PS: Not sure who went to bat for me...haha, but it happened. I just am thankful that the front office wanted to give me another chance. It's not very often that an undrafted rookie gets a second opportunity after a coaching staff change, but I was lucky enough to get that break and now I can give it everything I got one more time.
HH: You spent a decent amount of time under Coach Gibbs in '07 and now are a couple months into the Jim Zorn era, especially with practices gearing up. What is the biggest difference you've noticed between the two coaches and staffs?
PS: They both brought two different styles of football. Coach Gibbs was guy who wanted to pound the ball as much as he could, where as Coach Zorn, being a quarterback, likes to attack with the passing game, but at the same time, run the ball successfully as well. They both have/had systems in place that worked very well, and I think that the new system really will be successful. Also, I feel a lot of guys feel this is a fresh start, especially on offense, and a new opportunity to show the coaches you can play.
HH: Take us through your second re-signing, as this is a process fans aren't that familiar with. What were you doing when you got the call to rejoin the team? Who was on the other end the phone?
PS: This was a pretty different situation. Initially, I was substitute teaching, and I got a call from my agent saying they were interested in bringing me out for a workout and take another look at me, but I didn't get a date. Then, while on vacation in Florida in the end of March, I got a call from my agent on a Monday and he told me I had a workout in D.C. on Wednesday. So, I flew out of Pensacola at 6am on Wednesday, worked out and got a physical around noon, signed with them directly after the workout and flew back to vacation in Florida around 4pm. Not quite the interruption you would expect on a vacation, but a very welcome one at the least.
HH: It's a difficult enough task for an undrafted rookie free agent to make a squad, but then something horrible happens like an injury. Did you ever question for a second that your professional career was perhaps slipping away? What did you do (besides rehabbing the injury) to make sure that you were still in a position to get that phone call to join the team?
PS: It definitely crossed my mind right when the injury happened. It was in the second practice on about the 5th day of camp. I knew right when it happened that something wasn’t right. I tried to keep playing, hoping it was just a stinger or something, but I couldn’t move my arm. Once I got the diagnosis, I knew it would be an uphill battle trying to make the team only playing at about 60-70% healthy, but I made the attempt. I ended up being released with an injury settlement, but didn’t know if I would ever get the call to come back. Once I felt good enough to really kick up the workouts, I worked out 5 days a week trying to stay as big and as fast as possible. It ended up being a good thing because I got the chance to play again.
HH: Mike Sellers has been in the league a while and over the past few years has really distinguished himself as one of the better fullbacks in the NFC. Have you had a chance to learn much from him about the position?
PS: Mike is one of the best in the business and there isn’t a better person to learn from. He’s physical, and athletic and a great competitor. I just try to watch what he does and emulate the best I can. I figure that is a good place to start…
HH: Fans like to speculate about how awkward it must be when players are potentially battling one another for position. Both you and Nehemiah Broughton are battling for the same position. Is it awkward at all? How have the two of you gotten along throughout?
PS: It is true that this is a business, and you are fighting against each other, but you just have to make the best of the situation. In this league, there is always someone trying to take your spot, even the starters’ spots. All I can do is go out and play and let that take care of the rest. If you get caught up in worrying about roster numbers and how many spots are there etc…It will just consume you and you won’t play well. I just go out and have fun. Football is supposed to be fun and I like to keep it that way.
HH: Having spent some time with the Redskins, who is your closest teammate on the roster?
PS: I lived with Alex Buzbee all last offseason, so him and I are pretty tight. I also am good buddies with Matt Sinclair and Tyler Ecker. Also, pretty much all the guys that I came in with as rookies last year are tight.
HH: Chris Cooley mentioned on his blog some of the good natured rookie hazing that goes on occasionally. Did you manage to avoid that?
PS: Besides the occasional helmet and shoulder pad drop off to the rookies by the vets, it wasn’t all that bad. They might give you a hard time once in a while, but it’s all in good fun.
HH: If Pete Schmitt wasn't playing football, he would be _____?
PS: In grad school for physical therapy or physician assistant.
HH: You have a serious Wikipedia page; in fact it's longer than current Cowboys starting fullback Deon Anderson. It says here you were an all state punter? Are you going to give recent draft pick Durant Brooks and/or Derrick Frost a run for their money?
PS: HAHA…I don’t think that will be happening any time soon, but I do like to think I can still kick that ball around a little bit. There wasn’t much technique for me in high school. I just kicked it as hard as I could and I guess it got me the accolades, but I would look like a fool if I lined up with them.
HH: I've never been to Wisconsin and I've only lived in Washington briefly. Has there been much, if any, of a culture shock between living in Wisc. and the District?
PS: It is definitely a different way of life out here. Everything is different. I challenge anyone who lives in the D.C. area to live in Whitewater, WI for a year and hear their responses. I bet they would have a bit of a culture shock. I loved it in college and wouldn’t change anything about it, but this area definitely has a different feel.
HH: Do you have a favorite hangout/bar/etc. in Washington? If Pete Schmitt does drink, he drinks_____?
PS: I like to go to Sweetwater in the Ashburn area, and any place down by the water in D.C. - Gin and tonic or Miller Lite…depends on the mood. [ED. Note by Skin Patrol: There simply wasn't a better way for Pete to have answered the second half of this question. I was raised by a G and T drinker and am currently in an intimate relationship with Miller Lite. Ergo: He must have a great mind.]
HH: Wisconsin-Whitewater was a pretty good D3 team while you were there (with two National Championship appearances). Do you keep in touch with any of your former teammates? Are any of them in the NFL or can There Be Only One?
PS: Some of my best friends are my teammates in college and I still keep in touch with several guys. One of my best friends from UWW is Derek Stanley and he was drafted by the Rams last year as a WR. He was the first person drafted in history from our school.
HH: Growing up in Wisconsin, who were your NFL heroes (I can't imagine they were Redskins)? Packers, right?
PS: Huge Packers fan growing up. Brett Favre is a legend in Wisconsin and he was the real deal when I was growing up, in fact, he is the only Packers quarterback I have ever seen. I vaguely remember Don Majkowski (spelling?), but for the last 17 years Favre has been the man. My parents did get me an old Doug Williams #17 jersey when I was a kid and I think that pic is floating around the internet somewhere. So that is kind of odd that I actually get to wear the real jersey now.
HH: We've already mentioned that you're apparently an All-State punter; are you getting much time on special teams right now, or even trying to?
PS: If I were to make the team, special teams would be where I would see the field. I am on every team there is and I plan on making plays there in order to earn my keep.
HH: You're no slouch when it comes to Tight End, but the team has a pair of guys, in Cooley and Davis, who know a thing or two about that position as well. Do you see yourself returning to tight end at any point, or getting reps at that position?
PS: That was the plan last year, but I think this year is strictly fullback. Maybe in the future I would love to do that, but right now, I have to make plays out of the backfield.
HH: You've probably got better hands than the average fullback seeing as you spent so much time in college catching footballs. Have you had an opportunity to perhaps showcase some of your skills at tight end and translate those into fullback? Everybody loves a fullback who can catch out the backfield.
PS: I feel that is my strength. I feel I can get out of the backfield and make plays with my hands. I always took pride in catching the ball and I feel that is an area that I can do very well at. I think I had 3 catches last preseason, so hopefully I can add to that total next year.
HH: My girlfriend and I recently watched Fargo and were discussing it with this elderly women from Michigan. When my girlfriend asked her if that's how people spoke in Michigan, she got offended as if such a suggestion were crazy, since Fargo was South Dakota. Wisconsin is closer to South Dakota then Michigan is. Have you seen Fargo and, if so, are you sporting the killer accent?
PS: It’s funny because if someone isn’t from the Midwest, I think they sound different. I probably have the typical “Midwestern accent” but I don’t consider it an accent. I think it’s the right way to talk…ha
HH: You've got a pretty unique skill set. Have you been given the opportunity to line up outside of the traditional fullback spot on offense?
PS: The west coast offense allows multiple formations and it will be fun to see what is possible once the whole offense is installed. I did some of that last year and hopefully it can continue this year.
My thanks again to Pete Schmitt for answering our questions and we're really pulling for you this offseason, brother. Hail to Pete Schmitt. Cheers.