Ryan Schraeder may have moved far away from Kansas, but some things about the 6-foot-7, 305-pound two-time All-American offensive tackle for Valdosta State remain very much the same.
He is still dominating competition, still in the hunt for national championships, and everywhere he goes people are still talking about the possibility of him playing in the NFL once his college career is over, buzz that has been surrounding him since he helped lead Butler Community College to the NJCAA championship game in 2010 and was named an NJCAA All-American.
Valdosta State plays at Minnesota State-Mankato on Saturday in the NCAA Division II semifinals.
“(The NFL) isn’t a distraction, it’s motivation for me,” said Schraeder, who is from Maize. “I enjoy talking to scouts and getting advice from them on what I need to improve and hearing them evaluate how I play.”
How Schraeder has played has been the reason that all 32 NFL teams have come to evaluate him at Blazers’ practices and games this season — as a junior he graded out at 91 percent on 701 plays and had 26 knockdowns.
This season he’s graded out at 96 percent, has 56 knockdowns and is a finalist for the Gene Upshaw Award for Division II’s top lineman. Valdosta State won its last national title in 2007.
“Last season we were kind of a young team and had a new quarterback that came in during the summer and right before the season started,” Schraeder said. “It took a little while before things started clicking late in the season … we lost three games on late drives so I think that served as motivation for us headed into this year.”
Schraeder, 24, didn’t play football in high school — he was only 5-7 by his junior year before a growth spurt late in his senior year of 2006 and after high school brought him to his current height and weight. A Kansas State assistant football coach saw him playing pickup basketball on campus one day while Schraeder was a student there and suggested he try his hand at football. Because of his late start and the number of college credits he’d already obtained, he was only eligible to play Division II after Butler.
Valdosta State, a perennial power, was a comfortable fit because former Butler safety Harrison Dreiling was already there.
“You hear about Southern hospitality, and at first I wasn’t sure if it was a real thing or not because people are so nice, all the time,” Schraeder said. “People here have been incredibly welcoming.”
Schraeder is currently rated as the 21st-best draft-eligible offensive tackle, according to NFLdraftscout.com, and scouts have told him that right now he’s either a late-round pick or will get a free-agent contract.
“Nothing is for sure, but I feel like I’ll definitely get an opportunity at a camp and there’s plenty of time to improve my stock between now and the draft,” Schraeder said. “Hopefully, I’ll get to play in some all-star games and if I get invited to the combine, I’ll go.”
He also stays in contact with his old Butler coaches and was following the Grizzlies as they lost in the NJCAA championship game to Iowa Western last week.
Schraeder’s Butler team lost to Navarro in their shot at the NJCAA title.
“We lost by one point, and it was heartbreaking,” Schraeder said. “I’d like to get another shot at winning it all.”