March 4, 2011

Thank God I'm a Country Boy: Schaefer shining for Winters Mill

In the rolling hills and the wide-open sprawling fields of Carroll County, Calvert Schaefer can be found tending to his family's farm. The junior from Winters Mill High in Westminster spends his evenings driving in fence posts, taking care of the animals, mowing the acres of land and piling up hay in the barn. He goes about his work like any farm boy would: easy-going, yet diligently and efficiently.

It's the same mentality he brings to the football field every Friday night.


"He's just a real humble, laid-back guy," said his friend since grade school, Vince DeAngelis, who plays defensive line for Winters Mill. "But the work he does to prepare is just phenomenal. He's one hell of a football player."

That he is. You see, Schaefer isn't some bumpkin from the hills. He happens to be a 6-foot-6, 235-pound tight end, a big 'ol country boy with big 'ol country boy strength. He might just be the best prospect Winters Mill has had since offensive tackle Jeff Braun - another big 'ol country boy - earned a full ride to West Virginia four years ago.

"If he continues on the path he's on, he's definitely got an opportunity to play college football at a high level," said Winters Mill coach Ken Johnson, who also saw Braun play. "With his size and athleticism, he has tremendous potential as an offensive tackle or a tight end at the next level."

Aside from his evident physical advantages - "the key ingredient," as Johnson likes to say - you'd hardly know Schaefer was a football player, however.

He speaks in a long, slow country draw and listens to the leisurely beats of Jake Owen or Tim McGraw in his free time (he has a Jake Owen song as his ringtone). He is more apt to regal friends with his hunting and fishing exploits then his gridiron prowess. Schaefer has spent many summer and fall weekends out in the woods of West Virginia hunting deer or fly-fishing in the mountain streams.

"It's relaxing and quiet; I really like that," Schaefer said. "I love to fish, and I love to hunt big time. The first deer I ever killed was a six-pointer, 22-inches long. Most people wait their whole lives to get one of those, but here I was eight years old and I got one. So that was really special to me."

Sometimes DeAngelis will join his best friend on his outdoor excursions, a modern-day Huck Fin and Tom Sawyer.

"He's real easy to talk to - not a guy who's cocky or full of himself at all," DeAngelis said. "He's the kind of guy you can trust with your life, to be honest. He's just a real good kid; he never puts himself in bad situations."

He's right about that. Unlike many teenagers, Schaefer has never really done anything crazy (read: stupid) or rebellious.

Well, unless you count the hair. Last year Schaefer chose to let his long, blond locks grow out, making him look more like a California surfer then a tough, rugged mountain man.


"People at school rag on me about it, but I don't really pay attention," Schaefer said. "It's something I just wanted to do. It's the Jeremy Shockey look."

Ironically, Schaefer may share more in common with Shockey then just a hairstyle. The New Orleans Saints star has about 25 pounds and a boatload more muscle mass then the young Winters Mill product. But the two are the same height, play the same position and have similar strengths.

"Calvert's got great hands - he's a first baseman, so he's used to scooping up balls - and he's very athletic and moves well for a guy that big," Johnson said. "He's still a long, slender kid, but with the training he's doing he's going to fill out nicely."

Unlike Shockey, however, it took Schaefer a good 14 or so years to realize how good he could be. Although he's been playing football since the fifth grade, Schaefer never really took the game seriously.

He enjoyed baseball more than any other sport and believed if he had any shot at playing in college it would be as a first baseman. In fact, he spent his first two high school seasons picking short hops and slugging line drives instead of catching passes. Schaefer did play offensive tackle on the junior varsity football, but it was mainly a way to pass the time until baseball season.

"To be honest, I almost didn't play football at all in high school," Schaefer said. "I came in and I was only 6-feet-2, maybe 170 pounds. I didn't think I'd grow much more."

But after his sophomore year, Schaefer sprouted up another four inches. Suddenly, he had the raw materials of an elite football prospect.

When Johnson saw how tall he'd grown, he immediately had a little conversation with Schaefer about his football career.

"He was a tall, gangly kid, but he was bigger then anyone we had," Johnson said. "We thought he could help us and we talked about [his potential]. The question was, Would he develop?"

The answer, in short, was an emphatic "Yes." Once Schaefer realized that football could take him to college he completely revamped his mind-set. He gave up baseball and began working harder then a farmer during harvest season on building his body. He spent hours and hours after school lifting weights and running hills.

In just one offseason, Schaefer had morphed from Shawn Bradley into something closer to Dwight Howard.

"Football just became a part of me," Schaefer said. "It's what I want to do now. I've been working as hard as I can to get to where I need to be."

In his first year on varsity Schaefer started both ways, at defensive end and tight end. It took him a couple of scrimmages to get used to the speed and physicality of varsity football, but by Week 1 he was ready.


In Schaefer's first game against Walkersville he caught his first varsity pass. But his first touchdown didn't come until six weeks later against Francis Scott Key.

Winters Mill had moved into the FSK red zone when they called a "blue-pop-pass-left". Schaefer faked like he was chipping the linebacker, but instead of blocking down he released off the line and ran a skinny post. The Winters Mill quarterback hit him right in stride for a touchdown, the first time he'd reached the end zone at any level.

"He caught the pass and he didn't know what to do," DeAngelis said, laughing. "He just handed the ball back to the ref and then came back to the huddle with this big smile. He was like, 'Hey guys I just scored' in that goofy tone of his. It was good times."

The good times kept rolling. By the end of the year Schaefer was batting down passes on defense and racking up the yards on offense. He even earned Honorable Mention All-County honors.

Not bad for a first-year varsity player.

Johnson was certainly impressed, but he admits Schaefer still has a ways to go in order to become an elite prospect. Schaefer's footwork and agility are raw, and his upper-body strength still needs work.

"He's a late bloomer in terms of physical maturity," Johnson said. "But he has tremendous possibility for growth. He has a huge upside."

But does he have the upside of, say, a Jeff Braun, who's now West Virginia's starting right tackle? Can the big 'ol country boy who spends his free time working on a farm and hunting deer realistically play college football at a BCS school?

"Everybody dreams about getting to the big time," Schaefer said. "And for me, it's right at my fingertips. I just have to reach out and grab it."



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