If you’re worried about Ryan Schraeder and how he’s going to handle the aftermath of Super Bowl LI, please remember this about him:
He didn’t play high school football but played in the Super Bowl.
He’ll be OK.
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The 28-year-old Schraeder, a Wichitan who just completed his fourth season at right offensive tackle with the Atlanta Falcons, has determination.
“I imagine he’s had so many people telling him he was doing something that couldn’t be done,” said Tim Schaffner, the coach at Butler Community College where Schraeder broke into football as an 18-year-old. “I would think a guy in his position has great resolve. And I know he comes from great character in his family, so he’ll survive.”
But, boy, what a blow.
The Falcons blew a 28-3 lead and lost in overtime to the New England Patriots 34-28 on Sunday night in Houston. Once the shock of the comeback wears off, the Atlanta coaching staff and players will be picked apart, scrutinized like they’ve never been scrutinized.
As for Schraeder, he was telling family members after the game that he couldn’t wait for the 2017 season to start.
“He told us how he wants to come back and work even harder,” said Schraeder’s mother, Deb, who attended a postgame party with her son and other players and family members from the Falcons.
“(Team owner) Arthur Blank was there for a little while,” Deb Schraeder said.
In those television shots of Blank along the sideline during the fourth quarter and overtime, he didn’t look like a man prepared for a party. Nor did the Falcons, who could not stop New England quarterback Tom Brady and his merry band of undersized receivers.
Former Butler Grizzlies coach Troy Morrell, Schraeder’s coach who resigned after 15 seasons in 2014, said he was zoned in on Schraeder while watching the Super Bowl.
“There was a lot going on in the game, a lot of big plays,” said Morrell, a senior account manager for the Lowen Corporation in Hutchinson. “But I thought Ryan played really well. There was one sack they called his name on, but it really looked like a big push from New England’s defensive line created that. I really hated to see Ryan go down with that injury.”
Schraeder left the game in the fourth quarter with what appeared to be a leg injury. Deb Schraeder said it was a mild ankle sprain and that her son was doing much better after the game.
“Ryan was in good spirits,” she said. “We noticed even earlier in the game that he was limping a little bit after one of the early plays. So he hurt it or twisted the ankle toward the start of the game.”
Deb Schraeder said Ryan was more concerned with the emotional state of teammate and Falcons right guard Chris Chester, 34, who is considering retirement after 11 NFL seasons.
“He and Ryan are really good friends,” Deb Schraeder said. “I think Chris was a little more somber after the game than some of the other guys. But it’s a young team and hopefully they’ll be able to come back next year and do the same thing.”
The motivation will undoubtedly be there for the Falcons. But so will the aftermath, which is all people will talk about during these next several months without football.
To understand Schraeder’s emotional state, though, means to understand how he came about this football life in the first place.
He played all the sports as a young kid but wouldn’t grow. He ultimately became tired of competing and played no high school sports. But during his senior year at Maize, his body blew up. He went from 5-foot-7 to 6-4 and suddenly football became more appealing.
“I remember sitting at my desk at Butler with my head down working on something and I feel this presence walk into the room,” Morrell said.
It was Schraeder, asking about playing for the Grizzlies. The first season included a lot of basics, but Schraeder became a big contributor in 2010, helping Butler reach the NJCAA championship game and being chosen as a first-team All-American.
“He has a tremendous work ethic and a humble character,” Morrell said. “And a strong willingness to learn. We threw him out there as a redshirt and he ran on our scout team against a lot of really good players. He was one of those guys who was always in the weight room and he was so good to coach because he didn’t have any tendencies.”
Morrell said he occasionally sends a text message to Schraeder just to check in. After the obvious sting of the Super Bowl loss, he’ll give his former lineman some space.
“Going down in history as being on the losing end of the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history is not something you want to be known for,” Morrell said. “But I’m sure it’s going to serve as motivation for Ryan and everyone in that organization and not only in football but in the game of life. It’s all about finishing the task at hand and finding ways to make plays with the game on the line.”