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Wednesday, May 10, 2023
Schmitz Vies for Spot on Blue Bombers Roster

Picture curtsey Mike Deal/Winnipeg Free Press
You wouldn’t expect to see a 36-year-old at rookie camp, you also wouldn’t expect to find a player from Bermuda of all places, especially one that hasn’t played a game since 2017, writes Taylor Allen.

Thanks, however, to an assist from CFL punting legend Jon Ryan — who started his pro career in Winnipeg — punter Karl Schmitz and his unique story were at IG Field Wednesday for the first day of Blue Bombers rookie camp.

“Just knowing my back story, he was like ‘Hey, did you ever consider entering the global draft?’ I said, I have no idea what the hell that is,’” admitted Schmitz on Wednesday.

Once Ryan filled him in, Schmitz was all in, which led to him getting his name out there and being selected in the second round of the 2023 CFL Global Draft by Winnipeg.

“Putting the helmet on and being around this environment, I feel a spark in me that feels great,” Schmitz said. “I have a smile on my face now, that you can see, but it feels like I’m supposed to be here, being with the boys, letting the balls fly and having fun. It’s exciting.”

He’s been fighting to make it as a professional kicker for years, catching his first break back in 2015 when the Denver Broncos gave him a look. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers brought him in for tryouts as well, but Schmitz came up short of his NFL dreams. He took a step back and got into coaching, but in 2021, decided to give it one more go thanks to some encouragement from Detroit Lions punter John Fox.

“I almost just gave it up to work full time and start my life,” Schmitz said. “I was out there just banging balls with (Detroit Lions punter John Fox) and he was just like ‘Dude, why did you stop?’ I was like ‘You know what, that’s a really good question.’ So I made a full-time commitment in 2021 to see how much juice I had left in the leg.”

Born and raised in Bermuda, Schmitz, who grew up playing soccer, moved to the United States at 18 and went to high school in St. Louis. He only played half a season of football in high school, but he uploaded some highlights to YouTube which garnered some attention and led to him playing at Jacksonville University. From there, he had another YouTube video go viral — one of him drilling a punt 70 yards — and he’s been attending kicking camps and combines ever since.

“Honestly, to me, it doesn’t seem like it’s that crazy, but I guess, to the outside perspective, it is quite the journey,” Schmitz said,.

In order to make the Bombers, he’ll have to beat out Canadian Marc Liegghio among several others. The Bombers haven’t seen enough from Liegghio to promise him anything as he averaged 46.9 yards per punt last season which put him in eighth place in the CFL.

“We chatted at the end of the year. (Liegghio) knew there would be a competition,” said head coach Mike O’Shea.

“I think the message is the same as it is to everybody. We want to win football games and we want to be the best at every phase we can be and nobody should be afraid of that. They’re pro football players, nobody’s afraid of that. They want to compete and they want to win the job.”

As for Schmitz’s age, O’Shea has no concerns.

“We’re in a profession where you’ve got to win, so if a guy can help you, he can help you… why would you worry about how old he is?” O’Shea said.

“He’s in great shape, just in fantastic shape. I certainly didn’t look like that when I was 36.”
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