John Michael Schmitz, a 6-foot-4, 285-pound offensive lineman from Homewood Flossmoor, switched his commitment Friday from Western Michigan to Minnesota to follow head coach P.J. Fleck. He was a two-year starting left tackle, who helped his team average over 40 points a game and finished 20-3 the past two years.
Gopher Hole caught up with him Saturday to learn the latest on his decision.
Gopher Hole: It's been a crazy past 48 or so hours for you. What is the feeling now that you are a new Minnesota commit?
John Michael Schmitz: Kind of relieved that everything is all done. I know where I am going and it will be a good place for the next four years.
Gopher Hole: What was your initial reaction when you heard that Coach Fleck was leaving Western Michigan?
John Michael Schmitz: I really didn't know. I was thinking, like, could this be the opportunity that I was waiting for and maybe when he gets there, he'll offer me? As a little kid, I wanted to play in the Big Ten.
Gopher Hole: They have obviously gotten six commitments from former Western Michigan guys. Had you been talking to each other a little bit before that?
John Michael Schmitz: After everybody committed, we had a little Twitter thing, but before that, we didn't really talk.
Gopher Hole: Have you talked to those other five guys since you committed?
John Michael Schmitz: Yes, I have.
Gopher Hole: Did you know those kids very well? I don't know if they were there when you visited the Kalamazoo. Had you gotten to know them very well yet?
John Michael Schmitz: Yes. We talk every day. I know those guys really good.
Gopher Hole: Does that make it a little easier knowing that you are going to be playing with them, a group of guys that you had looked forward playing with at Western Michigan, but now are going to be playing at a different school?
John Michael Schmitz: Yes, I would say so. You get to know someone, like you don't have to walk in late and be lost and you don't know anybody. I can tell going there and knowing a couple of guys.
Gopher Hole: Your senior season, your team finished 10-1, losing a heartbreaker 28-21 to Glenbard East. However, you have to be very pleased with the success you had this past season?
John Michael Schmitz: A lot of people doubted us, saying we weren't even going to make the playoffs (due to heavy graduation losses). To make the playoffs and go undefeated was just a huge accomplishment for our team. It was just one heck of a season, especially the Lincoln-Way East one (a game they rallied from 14-0 deficit to defeated the then number-two ranked team 35-30). That was something else.
Gopher Hole: You were named to IHSFCA 8A All-State, Southwest Suburban All-Conference, The Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette IHSA Football All-State Team and Chicago Tribune All-State team. How pleased were you with some of the individual accolades you received this year?
John Michael Schmitz: I was very pleased. I am really proud of myself. It was a big accomplishment for me.
Gopher Hole: How would you describe yourself as an offensive lineman?
John Michael Schmitz: I get off the ball fast. I am very physical and I am just mean.
Gopher Hole: You played left tackle in high school. What have the coaches said about a position you would play in colleges?
John Michael Schmitz: I know that Western Michigan wanted me as a guard. I don't know what Minnesota wants me to play. It is probably going to be guard.
Gopher Hole: Is that going to be a tough adjustment, having played tackle for so long?
John Michael Schmitz: I used to playing interior when I was a freshman, so I don't think that it will be that bad.
Gopher Hole: Do you play any other sports?
John Michael Schmitz: No, not my senior year. I used to play basketball. I used to wrestle and I used to play baseball.
Gopher Hole: When did you stop playing those sports?
John Michael Schmitz: Wrestling, I stopped sophomore year. Basketball was sophomore year and baseball was freshman year.
Gopher Hole: Do you think playing those other sports though, helps you as a football player in terms of foot work and strength training, especially with wrestling.
John Michael Schmitz: I think that wrestling helped me the most. Your footwork. If you have bad feet, you can't wrestle.
Gopher Hole: What do you know about Minnesota?
John Michael Schmitz: It's cold. (Laughing). They are getting a new facility being built right now that will be ready in October. That is what the coaches have told us. The Twin Cities, it is nice.
Gopher Hole: Have you ever been to Minnesota before?
John Michael Schmitz: I haven't.
Gopher Hole: Have you talked to any of the other kids who committed to Western Michigan who are still maybe up-in-the-air?
John Michael Schmitz: I have not.
Gopher Hole: Do you know when you are planning on visiting Minnesota yet?
John Michael Schmitz: The coaches are going to give me a date that I can visit. It will be coming up soon.
Gopher Hole: Obviously, Coach Fleck has been very successful at Western Michigan and there had been some talk that he might leave there. Had you heard from some other schools recently?
John Michael Schmitz: A lot of colleges started to follow me and DM me, but I was committed and I didn't respond.
Gopher Hole: Has this been a tough week, because I am sure that you are hearing from a lot of your friends, who have known where they are going to school for awhile and you thought you had your thing done and now everything changes? What this kind of a tough week with everything up in the air?
John Michael Schmitz: Yes, it has been a little stressful.
Gopher Hole: I read that J.J. Watt is your favorite player. Why is he your favorite player?
John Michael Schmitz: That is my guy. Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to be like him, because I used to play defense, freshman year, I was a defensive end and that was who I resembled. I switched to offense and I was like, no more J.J. Watt, but I still like him.
Gopher Hole: A lot of people haven't seen you play from the Twin Cities. What can they expect from you as a player?
John Michael Schmitz: Speed and a nasty guy. Watch out for me.
Gopher Hole: I know that Coach Fleck recruited you a lot at Western Michigan, but what was your relationship like with Coach Callahan, the offensive line coach there? Was he someone who also recruited you at Western Michigan?
John Michael Schmitz: I would say yes. I talked to Coach Cally. I talked to him often. He is a good offensive line coach.
Gopher Hole: Have you heard if any of those coaches might be coming along with Coach Fleck?
John Michael Schmitz: I asked the same question. I don't know yet.