For those who remember the name the Chuck Schlegel, the first image that pops into the mind is a lefty toeing the bump for Shikellamy’s baseball team, brim of his cap flat as board, snapping off one nasty curve after another.
His talent was evident, so much so that it took him to Wake Forest to play baseball. All the while Schlegel never let his dream of playing football fade, and now that dream is a reality.
Follow his path: Prior to his senior year at Shikellamy, Schlegel was hit in the face with a line drive while pitching during an American Legion all-star game and it cost him his senior football season with the Braves. That led him to a small junior college in Cochran, Ga., to play baseball and eventually onto Wake Forest, where the finance major played ball for a couple of years before arm trouble began to plague him at one of the nation’s best business schools. Eventually he tried out for the Demon Deacons football team and now has a starting role on special teams.
“At the time I was injured in that all-star game, I thought football was over for me,” Schlegel, the 2009 Daily Item Baseball Player of the Year. “But I had constant tendonitis in my shoulder and was unable to get on the mound.”
Working himself back into shape for baseball, Schlegel’s body transformed. He turned into a solid 6-foot, 175-pounder with good speed (4.52 seconds in the 40) and a vertical leap (40.5 inches). He found himself on the Wake Forest roster and is now a contributor on kick teams.
It’s been a long road back, but one that makes the redshirt sophomore feel like he has finally found a home.
“Once I was in college and my body was able to grow and become stronger, I knew football was my answer,” said Schlegel. “Once my body matured, I was confident football was the sport that fit me best. Especially with my mentality. I was raised in a family with a football mentality: Things were always ‘suck it up and get through it.’
“Little did I know I would have the opportunity to play at Florida State in front of 80,000 fans.”
Like a lot of walk-ons, Schlegel had to stand out in practice, not only to get on the field but to make the team at all. Putting forth an effort that Schlegel said the coaches told was filled with “extreme tenacity,” he not only made the team, but is now on three different special teams units: kickoff return, kickoff coverage and punt block. Not bad for a kid who is wearing a football uniform for the first time since 2007. His first road game was a couple of weeks ago at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla., where Wake played the No. 6 team in the country, Florida State.
But the gig certainly isn’t glamorous. Coeds don’t date gunners; they fawn over quarterbacks. That’s OK with Schlegel; he just does his thing and earns the respect of his teammates along the way, although he could do without some of the rule changes to cost him the chance to make plays.
“Special teams are definitely not for the faint of heart, but that’s what I like about it,” he said. “But I’m not a fan of the new kickoff rule because it makes it easier for the kicker to kick it out of the end zone.”
Schlegel is not listed on the depth chart in the defensive backfield, but he has played in every game on special teams. A safety growing up, he was switched to cornerback at Wake and the adjustment has been a slow one. He has his sights set on one of the two starting safety spots in the next two and a half years.
He’s got some big goals (become a starter, make it back to the Orange Bowl) and some small ones (block a punt, score a touchdown) but the fact he’s doing what he is, where he is, is a feat in itself.
Sports editor Bill Bowman covers college sports for The Daily Item. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him at Twitter.com/Williambbowman.