So how does a guy from Plano, Texas end up walking on to the University of Wisconsin football team?
It is no great mystery to those who have happened past the Schober household on a college football Saturday and witnessed the Badger flag unfurled for all to see.
“My parents are from Wisconsin. My dad went here and my grandpa went here,” Adam Schober explains as a wide smile spreads across his face. “So it’s kind of like tradition. I wanted to go here since I could talk.”
Schober, a freshman kicker and punter, grew up watching Wisconsin on television, idolizing the cardinal and white. Some smaller schools offered him a scholarship, and Ivy League schools pursued him, but he leaped head over the heels for the opportunity to come to Madison and be a Badger.
“First day at camp, I was pretty nervous. I’d been watching the games my whole life,” Schober said. “I’d see Barry Alvarez on the sidelines and I’m sitting here ready to take a kick and he’s back behind me looking at me. I’m like….what the heck is going on?
Schober, who is redshirting this season, did not remain starstruck for long. He began fall camp as a combination kicker/punter/kickoff specialist and played well. Had he been pressed into service he could have been serviceable in any of those capacities.
“Once I got over the nervousness and just being in front of Jimmy [Leonhard] and Alvarez and all the coaches and having this W on my helmet—it’s crazy,” Schober said. “Once I got over the nervousness I really kind of settled in and got in a groove and I did really well the last couple weeks of the season.”
The Badgers, however, are set for the next three seasons at punter after redshirt freshman Ken DeBauche enjoyed a fine debut season. Ditto that for kickoffs, where freshman Taylor Mehlhaff has been spectacular.
Place kicker, however, will be a wide open competition between Schober and Mehlhaff. Senior place kicker Mike Allen will play his last game at the Outback Bowl Jan. 1.
Schober is a walk-on. Mehlhaff is a scholarship athlete, a prep All-American and a game-tested player. But Schober will not shy away from the challenge.
“That’s another reason I wanted to come here,” he said. “I knew Taylor was coming here and I knew that it would push me to be the best that I could…I didn’t want to go somewhere, think I was good just because I’m a starter; have people pat me on my back even though I suck. If I come here and play, I know I’m good.”
During fall camp, Schober was substantially more comfortable place kicking than Mehlhaff, who struggled in adjusting from using a tee to kicking off the ground. Both players, however, have kicked well in bowl practices, setting the stage for what may be Wisconsin’s tightest competition for 2005.
“I’m ready for that. I’m real anxious,” Mehlhaff said. “I want to be the guy. I’d like to have that pressure on my shoulders. I know I’ve got a lot of work on field goals. I’m going to work my butt off this offseason, this summer with it.”
“I expect it to be a really good battle,” Schober said. “Taylor’s a really good kicker. I think I am too. I think we both have a really good opportunity and I think it comes down to whoever is willing to work harder and really get it down with the snappers and holders.”
Like Mehlhaff and DeBauche, Schober has had to adjust to being simply a kicker in college. In addition to his punting and kicking duties, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound athlete was a starting linebacker and wide receiver at Jesuit College Prep in Dallas. He finished his career the school’s third all-time leading receiver. It was his 41.5 yards per punt average, though, that drew Wisconsin’s attention.
“It’s kind of rough because I’ve pretty much played every sport, every position, my whole life,” Schober said. “I wasn’t a good enough athlete to play receiver or linebacker at this level and I really wanted to play at this level. So kicker is where I wanted to be. If I have to work myself into position, it’s really not that big of a deal. I have four more years.”
Schober is still working a little as a punter but circumstance has honed his attention on place kicking.
“I really expected to come in here and be a punter but obviously Kenny had an unbelievable season,” Schober said. “It doesn’t look like that’s where the best opportunity is for me now. I really just started focusing on place kicking because that’s where I see the opening. If I can impress enough people than that’s where I’ll end up getting on the field.”