Eastern Washington cornerback Bo Schuetzle is hitting his stride at just the right time.
And just plain hitting – a major reason the Eastern Washington cornerback was the Big Sky Conference’s choice for special teams player of the year.
“When you see a guy in front of you, your eyes light up and you smack him,” said Schuetzle, a senior from Shadle Park High who also made a big impact this year at cornerback.
“There’s nothing like it,” said Schuetzle, who was likewise knocked for a loop last week when he heard about the Big Sky award. On Facebook.
“It felt unreal at first. I almost dropped my phone,” said Schuetzle, whose senior season has had an unreal quality about it.
Injuries forced All-American corner T.J. Lee III to move to safety, and Lee was in turn replaced by the always-eager Schuetzle.
A backup for most of his career, Schuetzle made the most of his chance, starting against Montana State and Cal Poly. He had two interceptions against the Mustangs on Nov. 16 as Eastern clinched a tie for the Big Sky title.
“He’s been huge, and it’s not just this year,” coach Beau Baldwin said. “He has such a great team attitude.”
That shows on special teams, where the 6-foot, 200-pound Schuetzle has been a fixture since his redshirt freshman year in 2010. Playing on all four units, Schuetzle has thrived on the coverage units, which puts a premium on his hitter’s mentality in open field.
The Big Sky award was earned partly because “I want to give it a 100 percent effort for those 4 or 5 seconds, and I guess people noticed,” Schuetzle said. “I think I disrupted some of their schemes, since I saw a lot of double teams later in the season.”
Schuetzle’s story is all the more unlikely because of how it started. Born in Louisville, Ky., to a couple “in a bad situation,” he followed his older sister Catie into their adoptive home in Spokane.
Parents Mark and Jenny “weren’t picky on getting kids who looked like them,” Schuetzle said. After giving birth to son Ty, the Schuetzles adopted Jay from South Korea, then adopted Catie and Bo.
“They just loved kids in general,” said Schuetzle, who found athletic success at Shadle through football, wrestling and track. He was a natural – as was Catie, who competed in track and field at Washington State.
The Highlanders’ football team won just six games combined in his last two seasons in 2007-08, but Schuetzle said coach Mark Hester instilled “team and family attitude,” something he also saw during the recruiting process at Eastern.
“They all got alone so well,” said Schuetzle, who received only a partial scholarship until this year.
He moved from safety to corner in 2009, his redshirt year, and made an immediate impact on special teams. He played in 14 games in 2010, including a first-round win over Southeast Missouri State, when he helped clinch a 37-17 win with a fourth-quarter fumble recovery of a punt return.
“That was unreal, just awesome,” said Schuetzle, who calls teammates such as Matt Johnson, J.C. Sherritt and Bo Levi Mitchell as the “most competitive, hard-working people I’ve ever met.”
Competition has been fierce at cornerback throughout Schuetzle’s career at Eastern. He moved up to second on the depth chart in 2012, behind Ronald Baines and opposite Lee.
“You come here and every kid wants to start,” Schuetzle said. “It’s frustrating at times, but then you look at the guys in front of you like Ronald and T.J. … they’re so good.”
Entering Saturday’s playoff game against South Dakota State, Schuetzle will be all over the field, a backup at corner and a big presence on special teams.
“He’s a very positive guy, and I like his attitude,” Lee said. “I’ve learned a lot from him in terms of how he carries himself.”
The goal is to carry through to the FCS championship game on Jan. 4, which falls on Schuetzle’s 23rd birthday.
“That would be awesome,” said Schuetzle, who expects to graduate next term with a degree in business management.