Richard Paige — So many things have to come together for any single play in football to work. When they do, it can lead to a very special moment.
Sixty-seven seconds remained in the Little Giants’ 55-7 win at Wooster last weekend when special happened.
“If you would have seen the way the guys on the sideline reacted, you would have thought that we won the national championship,” offensive coordinator Don Morel said. “That’s as much fun as I’ve had in 25 years of coaching.”Ethan Shultz is a freshman outside linebacker. He stands 5-foot-6, weighs 152 pounds, and is diabetic. For him to even be on the team is borderline miraculous.
He’s a member of the scout team defense, which means each week he and 10 other teammates mimic the opponent’s defense to give the starters a chance to simulate what they might face on Saturday.
It’s a thankless job because scout teamers spend more time learning the opposing D than they do their own.
Coaches notice. And they noticed Shultz, who sticks his nose in there every day and plays to the best of his ability on each play. He does everything asked of him.
Shultz grew up in Danville, Ohio, roughly 30 miles from the Wooster campus, and as a reward for his hard work, earned a spot on the Little Giants’ travel team. That’s as much as any freshman could hope for.
Late in the game with the Little Giants cruising, Shultz’s teammates began chanting his name. They wanted him to get a chance to play. The coaches started to talk. Could we get him on the field?
“Something crazy had to happen for us to get him in the game,” said assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Olmy Olmstead. “We’re on defense and we need something to get him in on the kickoff squad.”
A few plays later, A.J. Clark ’16 intercepted a pass and returned it 58 yards for a score. Crazy just happened and Coach Erik Raeburn green lighted the decision to put him in.
Shultz trotted on to the field for the ensuing kick-off. With the ball on its way, he sprinted down the field wearing No. 58, and he made the tackle. The Little Giant sideline erupted.
“It felt great to make that tackle on my first collegiate play,” Shultz explained. “It felt as all the hard work I’ve put in on scout team finally came to fruition.”
This isn’t a Rudy experience, that’s fairytale. Moments like Shultz’s happen far more often in college sports than Hollywood ever lets on. What’s truly memorable about Ethan’s performance is that in the singular moment – seven seconds in total – he got an opportunity and made the most of it. The hard work, the practices, the focus, the dedication. He. Made. The. Tackle.
Coaches love when their guys rise and meet the moment. Ethan Shultz did exactly that.
“I’m not sure how much Ethan Schultz is going to get in there and play in the future, but I can promise you that if he continues to perform like he does on our scout team, you are going to want that guy in your organization.
“He absolutely earned it,” Olmstead said. “He deserved every second of that moment.”