A big gamble paid off for J. Schroeder.
A big gamble paid off for J. Schroeder.
The talented punter from St. Charles Preparatory School did not have a Division I college football offer after graduating in 2011, so he opted instead to stay home to work out and play the waiting game.
After continually sending out video links of his highlights to numerous programs, Western Michigan University offered him a full-ride scholarship.
Now entering his sophomore season with the Broncos, Schroeder wants to make sure his hard work continues to pay off.
"Last year, I didn't know what to expect because college football is completely different than high school football," said Schroeder, a west Columbus resident. "Now, I'm going in with more confidence and I trust my abilities. That will be the biggest change in me. I've been there and done that, so it's great to know what to expect."
As a freshman last fall, Schroeder punted 56 times for an average of 40.2 yards. His long was 82 yards, with 11 punts of 50 yards or more and 12 placed inside the 20-yard line.
Former Ohio State kicker and punter Tim Williams, who has worked with Schroeder since 2007, believed his student had a Division I-caliber leg.
"It was my suggestion for J. to take the year off," said Williams, who works with kickers and punters throughout the state through his website, upandthrough.com. "I knew he was a Division I punter. It turned out even better than I thought it would for J. He had faith and trust that it was the right choice, and his mental toughness paid off."
Schroeder admitted it wasn't easy to sit out from football in fall 2011 for the first time since he was in elementary school, but it allowed him to get stronger and hone his skills.
"It was definitely different and obviously was not something that I had wanted to do, but it ended up being for the best," he said. "It allowed me to stay at home and get bigger and stronger. It allowed me to mature and work on my kicking. I would recommend (that avenue) to anyone.
"(Williams) really looked out for me, and my dad (Jeff Schroeder) spent countless hours on the computer, putting together film and looking at team websites for schools that would need punters. Western (Michigan) was the one that gave me that shot."
Last fall, the Broncos finished 4-8 overall and 2-6 in the Mid-American Conference under coach Bill Cubit, who now is offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Illinois. He was replaced at WMU by P.J. Fleck.
Schroeder also has a new position coach in special teams coordinator J.B. Gibboney.
"(Gibboney) does things quite differently," Schroeder said. "Last year, my coach also coached running backs, so he wasn't there as much. But coach Gibboney spends 90 percent of practice with us and is able to give instruction throughout practice.
"(Gibboney) stresses suddenness, which is the ability to move quickly through from catch to kick. He wants the tempo to be under control."
Gibboney said Schroeder has a strong leg, which makes his job easier.
"J. kept improving throughout the spring and has the potential to be a good punter," Gibboney said. "One thing you can't teach is leg speed and power, and he has that.
"He's also committed to being technical in his kicks and he's improved his drop consistency. That's the biggest thing. He's giving himself a better chance to connect with the ball and he has improved his steps and how short that they are. Shorter steps are better."
Schroeder is looking for consistency in his second season with the Broncos.
"You really have to be consistent with what you are doing," he said. "You need to break down the entire process and have a good drop and take small steps. You break it down into separate steps and as you progress, you work on the next thing.
"All of the steps are equal, but the drop is huge in punting. The ball should be sitting at a 45-degree angle with the nose out, and (you have to) drop the ball perpendicular to your right hip. If you drop it any other way, the result won't be good."
Schroeder has a 3.56 GPA and is majoring in political science. During high school, he volunteered at Nationwide Children's Hospital and with Special Olympics, something he continues at WMU.
"I spend a lot of volunteer time with Special Olympics, especially in basketball," he said.
"A lot of our team has been involved in Special Olympics. You can't but smile because they are just awesome kids all the way around."