Mike Schad - Offensive Line - 1995 - Queens
Schad blazed a trail - QMI Agency -
exactly 25 years after Belleville native and Moira Secondary School
graduate Mike Schad made history, another offensive lineman from Canada
followed in his giant footsteps.
The former Queen's Golden Gael, who became the first Canadian selected
in the first round of the National Football League draft on April 29,
1986, watched a fellow Canadian - Danny Watkins of Kelowna, B.C. - join
his exclusive club on Thursday night.
On the silver anniversary of the Los Angeles (now St. Louis) Rams'
decision to pick Schad 23rd overall, the former Moira Trojan, 47, was
talking about another Canuck being selected in the exact same spot.
"Another Canadian picked 23rd overall, eh? Pretty crazy," Schad
chuckled, speaking Friday via telephone from his home in Marlton, N.J.,
after the team he used to play for and the team he now cheers for - the
Philadelphia Eagles - snapped up Watkins from NCAA Division I Baylor
University in Texas.
"Pretty crazy," said Schad. "He's a guard, too. Usually, they don't go
that high. It's tackles or centres (that do). He must be pretty good.
(Eagles coach) Andy Reid is no fool."
Now in the mortgage business, the six-foot-five Schad - a member of the
Belleville Sports Hall of Fame - remains the one and only Canadian
university player to be taken in the first round of the NFL. Only three
other Canadians have accomplished the feat - Tony Mandarich (1989,
second to Green Bay, Michigan State), Tim Biakabutuka (1996, eighth to
Carolina, Michigan) and Watkins.
Like Schad, the six-foot-four, 312-pound Watkins, 26, has defied
staggering odds to reach this stage. A firefighter in Kelowna, Watkins
attended a junior college near Sacramento, California, to study fire
science. At Butte College, people suggested the big man try out for
football, a sport Watkins had never played.
He was a quick learner. Watkins played two years at Butte and two years
at Baylor, establishing himself as a top prospect in a league in which
just 11 Canadians played last year (one was Kingston-born linebacker
Cory Greenwood of the Kansas City Chiefs).
"It's an unbelievable road (Watkins) has taken," Schad said.
So too was Schad's. A linebacker his first two years at Queen's, Schad
played just two years as a guard before his draft day.
Remember, Queen's - or any Canadian university for that matter,
especially back then - didn't exactly rank as a hot spot for NFL scouts.
Schad opened American eyes at the East-West Shrine game and a testing
camp in New Orleans.
"(Watkins) played two years at a junior college ... and that's really
good competitive football," said Schad. "He also played two years at
Baylor, which is a big-name school.
"Canadian football has made big strides, but we didn't even have spring
ball back then. I went to a (Queen's football) reunion and most of the
guys are doctors, principals, superintendents or lawyers. You can't say
that about most college teams (in the United States). It's a different
Schad figures Watkins will be "10 times more prepared" than he was for
Twenty-five years ago, Schad watched the draft in Toronto with his
agent, Gil Scott. When the Rams took him, he phoned home to Belleville
to tell his parents, Helmet and Ursula, the good news.
"I remember it very vividly. It was very exciting. I had to pack a
suitcase for him and bring it down to Toronto because he was flying
right (to Los Angeles)," said the friendly Ursula, a proud mother of
three and grandmother of seven (Mike and his wife, Christina, have two
kids - Kali, 5, and Colt, 3).
"I was a bit late and I remember sitting on the highway looking at the
clock and being a bit worried (she wouldn't make it). They were waiting
for the suitcase and then they had to take off."
Added Mike: "My whole life, I didn't even own a car. The only things I
had were the suitcase my parents brought for me, my equipment bag from
Queen's, a gym bag and a student loan. At Queen's, someone stole my
bike. I had nothing."
Apart from the financial improvement (Schad's first contract was a
reported US $1.3 million over four years), things didn't get much easier
in Hollywood. The day after the draft, the headline in the Los Angeles
Herald Examiner was 'A day of hype, hope and who?'
Staff reporter John Czarnecki wrote: "(The Rams) found (quarterback)
Dieter Brock a real-life Canadian bodyguard (who's next Wayne
The learning curve on the field was steep, too.
"I don't know why they drafted me," Schad said. "They had five Pro
Bowlers on the line and Eric Dickerson running the ball. They drafted
(two-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman) Tom Newberry in the second round.
He was a better football player than I was."
However, after three years of limited playing time and injury woes with
the Rams, things improved dramatically when then Eagles head coach Buddy
Ryan signed Schad in 1989.
"I played five pre-season games, 16 (regular season) games and one
playoff game (in 1989). I felt like I really accomplished something,"
Schad played four full seasons with the Eagles, earning one Sports
Illustrated All-Star nomination, before injuries caught up to him.
He signed with the Cleveland Browns, but never played a game. Schad then
came to the Canadian Football League for a season with the Ottawa Rough
Riders before retiring.
"Two knee surgeries, a fractured back, three bicep ruptures. That's a
career," said Schad, who played 62 NFL games, when making his retirement
decision in 1996.
Schad earned close to $700,000 in his best year, which is chump change
compared to what last year's 23rd overall pick is making (Green Bay
offensive lineman Bryan Bulaga signed a five-year deal worth a reported
$14.75 million before playing a down).
However, you won't find Schad complaining. Upon retirement, Schad
attended teacher's college at Queen's, doing a placement at Loyalist
Collegiate in Kingston.
Schad then returned to Philadelphia to do his Masters and coach linemen
at Temple University. In Philly, he met his wife and eventually settled
in a suburb in New Jersey, just a 25-minute drive from the City of
"I go to two or three Eagles games a year, eat chicken wings and drink
beer," said Schad, who also has helped out at some Eagles youth camps.
Schad, who hopes to meet Watkins, believes the B.C. boy is in for a
"They're incredible fans. They love their football," Schad said. "When
he gets here, people are going to recognize him and want to buy him
dinner or lunch. He'll get some promos, get a car deal, that's what
Schad lived that dream and is grateful for the experience.
But there is no place like home. Schad was back in the Quinte region for
Easter last week and also came to Kingston late last year for former
Queen's teammate Bob Wright's funeral.
His ties to these parts remain tight.
"I wouldn't trade it for the world," Schad said. "I'm very happy with
where it all started out. I was a Belleville-Hastings-Prince Edward
County boy. I'd never tell my kids to go far away from home (for
university). It's so easy to be close by and have all that support."