HOUSTON – Falcons tackle Ryan Schraeder is not quite ready to accept the unique distinction that must be his.
Surely he has to be the only starter – probably the only participant, period – in this Super Bowl who played nary a minute of high school football.
“I don’t know,” he said, not having done the extensive research required (and I really don’t have the time to do that right now – you try having a home team in the Super Bowl). “There probably are a few guys out there somewhere. Probably a small percentage, knowing the typical path guys take to make it to this level.”
I will guarantee you that there is no other NFL offensive lineman who began high school in Iowa as a 5-7, 140-pound beanpole, who had an explosive and painful growth spurt as a senior, who took a job driving a meat and poultry truck for $8 an hour upon graduation, decided to give football a whirl at Butler Community College, transferred to far-away Valdosta State, made the Falcons roster as an undrafted free agent, having added one foot of height and 167 pounds of girth since those early high school days in Kansas.
It would be almost impossible to take such a route and not be just a little bit amazed by the prospect of playing in the Super Bowl.
“It’s kind of something always in the back of your mind. I’m embracing it and enjoying it,” Schraeder said.
The chief benefactor of his work was put on notice early that the Falcons might have something in this large, raw prospect. “I remember (former tight end) Tony Gonzalez saying, hey man, give it time, this kid is going to be able to play. That was cool to hear from a veteran guy, who had been around a long time, seen different cases like that where young guys have the opportunity to develop and get better,” quarterback Matt Ryan said.
“His work ethic is the reason he has been successful,” Ryan said. “He really cares about being the best player he can be. That has pushed him to be at the level he is now – he has played at a high level for us.”
The Falcons re-upped Schraeder this season to a five-year deal – so, yeah, he did retired the $20,000 in student debt he worked up while trying to establish himself at the collegiate level.
There are so many chapters to his singular football tale, and Schraeder will tell you that has has many more to add.
“I’m happy for what I’ve done so far. You can’t really be satisfied in this business because it will catch up with you. I’m still writing the story on my life and it’s exciting,” he said. “I’ve got to stay focused on what has gotten me this far – that’s the hard work and dedication and resiliency, all that stuff.”