Devils’ Schlegel looks to ride past Eaton
First things first: Jerad Schlegel likes defense a lot better than offense, and football isn’t even his best sport.
It’s a statement that doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense when one looks at the Eagle Valley running back’s offensive numbers from the year, or even just his stats from last weekend’s opening-round playoff win against Buena Vista.
In that game, Schlegel ran through, around and over a beefed up Demons front seven for 230 yards on 18 carries and three touchdowns – literally running the Devils into the second round single-handedly. Talk to the 5-foot-10 senior running back, though, for five minutes and it becomes apparent that he is more focused on his defensive numbers than he is on his on his offensive output.
“Up “till now, I’ve really liked defense a lot more,” said Schlegel, who plans on doing rodeo in college next year, instead of prolonging his gridiron career. “I don’t know if I’m better at defense, but I’ve really liked it a lot more. This year, getting to be able to go both ways, it’s been great being able to run and do well. But in the last three years, one of my biggest goals was to be in the top three on the tackle charts.”
To go along with his Nintendo-esque performance in the backfield last week, Schlegel also set the tone on defense for Eagle Valley, totalling 21 tackles and three interceptions, with two of his picks coming on plays where he outjumped Buena Vista’s Nate Solder, a tight end who goes 6-foot-8.
Schlegel is rather nonchalant about these numbers when they are mentioned, only stating that he feels he is a better offensive player as a result of playing a lot of defense last year, when the Devils rushing attack was headed up by J.J. Alvis and Craig Jagger. Likewise, he feels his turn at offense this year has improved his play in Eagle Valley’s defensive backfield.
“Playing defensive back, that really helps me with routes because when I am running them on offense. I know how I can watch the corner and get a corner to turn one way,” said Schlegel. “Or, I can figure out how to get past somebody. On offense, hopefully I am able to see what is going to go on, and try to make the move that they are going to make before they make it.”
The obvious question for Schlegel, considering his considerable talents on both sides of the ball is, in some parallel, Playstation-enhanced universe, who would win the battle in the open field when it came down to Schlegel taking on Schlegel.
“I would hope I would be able to win on offense against myself, that I would be to juke myself,” says Schlegel with a laugh. “I think I could break my own ankles.”
Eagle Valley coach John Ramunno just hopes that Schlegel doesn’t break any bones anytime soon. As a young boy who was reared in the fast and violent world of rodeo, Schlegel didn’t get to start playing football until his freshmen year in high school because of fractured bones from rodeo injuries in his seventh and eighth-grade years.
“In seventh grade I had a compound fracture in my leg,” said Schlegel. “In eighth grade, I broke my arm.”
He also didn’t come out for the team his sophomore year because of his rodeo commitments, until Ramunno convinced him to come back out.
“He wasn’t anything but 110 pounds when he came out as a freshman,” said Ramunno. “But, you could tell he was going to be good. When he didn’t come out his sophomore year, I went and talked to him and asked him to come back out. He said, “But I already missed two-a-days.’ I said, “Don’t worry about that. We’ll work it out.”
Obviously, things have worked out since.
Along with gaining a greater understanding of the complete game of football from going both ways, Schlegel also believes that his rodeo experience has translated into football success too, just because of the similarities in the two sports.
“You kind of have to be in the same mindset to do rodeo and to play football,” said Schlegel. You have got to get ready both physically and mentally, because each sport is a strain on both your physical ability and your mental aspects. They are related.”
Still, despite his prowess as an athlete in both sports, Schlegel hasn’t ever considered exchanging his dreams of becoming a rodeo star for those of playing football successfully at the next level.
“I’ve never really thought about it,” said Schlegel. “I know nobody’s looking at me, and I’m definitely not going to walk on somewhere. Some colleges have looked at me for rodeoing, but I haven’t gotten any interest for football.”
So, unless Schlegel and his teammates can exact revenge on No. 1 Eaton on Saturday, this weekend could be the last time that anyone will be able to see No. 8 doing what he does so well inbetween the white lines of the football field- running, blocking, tackling and competing.
Catch him while you can.
Nate Peterson is a sports writer for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 608 or via firstname.lastname@example.org.