Kegan Schumann continues football career
“I was pretty young when I figured out that I wanted to play football when I got older,” Kegan Schumann said. “I loved playing all sports, but I really loved playing football.”
Schumann got his first taste of football when he tagged along as his father Jamie was coaching Kegan’s older brother Gaven’s fifth grade team.
“I got to play with the older kids because my Dad was the coach,” Schumann said.
It was this first taste of contact sports that spurred Schumann on to be prepared for what he would face as he entered high school.
“I got to play on special teams my freshman year and actually lettered,” Schumann said. “This got me ready for the next year.”
After a summer of weightlifting and working out, Schumann went from spot duty to starting at linebacker for the Sabetha Bluejays in the home opener of his sophomore campaign.
“By the second game, I was also starting at running back,” Schumann said.
By the time Schumann was a junior, he had turned into a solid performer who garnered some league recognition. Schumann was named honorable mention at inside linebacker in the Big Seven League.
“Kegan is one of the top competitors that has played football at Sabetha,” said Bluejay Head Coach Garrett Michael. “He had a true passion for the game, a nose for the ball at linebacker, ran the ball with great vision and toughness, and was like having another coach on the field.”
It were these attributes that enabled Schumann in his senior campaign to reel in the post season honors. In 2014, Schumann’s senior year, he earned first team running back, first team inside linebacker, and first team punter in the Big Seven League. He also gained statewide recognition as he was named to the Class 3A All State team as a first team linebacker and honorable mention running back.
“There are two plays that will always stick in my mind about Kegan,” Coach Michael said. “The first one was when Kegan was a sophomore and we were playing Rossville in the regional playoffs, and he made an open field one-on-one tackle on their best player and from there on, I knew we had a good one. The second one was when he was a senior and we were playing Nemaha Central in the playoffs, and he had one of the biggest hits I had ever seen. It changed the whole complexion of the game.”
Schumann’s successful career on the gridiron for the Jays was a catalyst for considering playing at the college level.
“I knew my junior year that I wanted to play football in college,” Schumann said. “My dad played football in college and my grandpa was a football coach at Jackson Heights for years, and they played a big part of me wanting to go to the next level.”
Highland Community College and Coffeyville Community College expressed interest in Schumann playing for them.
“The one thing that stood out to me in the recruiting process was that everyone I talked to told me I was too small to play linebacker,” Schumann said. “In fact, some even told me I was too small to play football. This really motivated me to prove to them that I could play.”
Schumann was not only a football player, he played as shortstop for Sabetha’s American Legion Post 126 team.
“I kind of started having doubts about me being able to play football and wondered if I should be focusing on playing baseball at the next level,” Schumann said. “My older brother Gaven was playing basketball at Tabor College, and he had been such a huge influence in my life that I wanted to play some sport in college.”
The quest for playing football continued with a visit to Washburn University, where once again he was told he was too small to play at that level.
“After that visit, I was really motivated to prove to these people that they were wrong and I could play college football at the linebacker position,” Schumann said.
It was a trip to Ottawa to watch his brother play basketball for Tabor that changed the course of Schumann’s desire.
“We drove past Baker University, and I asked my dad if he thought I should send my film to them,” Schumann said. “My dad played at Baker, but he never once suggested to me that I should go there.”
Schumann went on a visit to Baker, met Head Coach Mike Grossner and took his film with him. Grossner took one look at the film and offered him the chance to play linebacker at Baker University.
“Coach Grossner told me he wanted to put 20 pounds on me, and he believed that I could definitely play linebacker for the Wildcats,” Schumann said. “They offered me a scholarship, and I jumped on it.”
Schumann graduated from Sabetha High School in May 2014 and in the early part of the summer began participation in summer workouts and seven-on-seven football drills at Baker twice a week. When fall practice commenced in August, Schumann was part of a team that consisted of 120 players — 15 of those at the linebacker position.
“I was really nervous and excited at the same time,” Schumann said. “Everybody that was there was really good, and they all want to play just as bad as you do.”
Baker University is a member of the NAIA Heart of America Conference and has currently won four straight South Division titles in the conference and four straight appearances in the NAIA-FCS National Playoffs.
“This program has been so good that for a moment I had some feelings that maybe I did not belong down here,” Schumann said. “But after some time watching the two starters at linebacker, I knew that I could play here.”
Playing football at the next level was an eye opener for Schumann. Everything that takes place is on a time schedule, and it was now more of a job than an activity.
“Practice lasted at least two hours every day,” Schumann said. “It was a lot more involved than high school.”
In his first season as a Wildcat, Schumann was the backup linebacker to the two starters in front of him.
“I got in on special teams and in four to five games at linebacker,” Schumann said. “The biggest adjustment I had to make was getting used to the speed of the game. Everything comes at you so fast.”
His first year did not come without some hardships along the way.
“I actually had some moments where I wanted to quit,” Schumann said. “Trying to juggle football and school work was very difficult for me to handle at times.”
Schumann does not pull any punches of how he made the transition from high school athlete to playing at the collegiate level.
“If it had not been for the support from my parents, I would not have survived,” he said. “They were always there encouraging me and holding me up and telling me I could do it.”
Schumann also gives the credit for his perseverance to keep working toward his goal of playing football to someone very special in his life — his grandfather.
“My grandpa came down with cancer, and he just kept getting up every day and battling through the day,” Schumann said. “He always had a smile on his face and the best attitude, and I figured if my grandpa who had something much bigger than football to deal with could have that attitude and drive, then I could get through something small like playing football.”
Baker finished the 2015 season with an 11-2 record. The 2016 season was a special one for Baker, as the team made it all the way to the national championship game and finished second in the nation with a 14-1 record. It was also special for Schumann as his playing time increased at linebacker.
“Six games into the season, I broke my wrist but I played with it for the rest of the year,” he said. “I had surgery after the season to repair it.”
Schumann had two seniors starting in front of him, but he still found plenty of playing time at the Mike linebacker position.
“The Mike linebacker is the strong side backer, and after I learned how to drop back into pass coverage I saw a lot more playing time,” he said. “It was such a thrill to get to play in the national championship game.”
By the end of his sophomore campaign, Schumann was feeling the effects of playing football and being a college student.
“I was majoring in vertebrate biology, which required me to study a lot,” he said. “With all of the football practice time and meetings, I was up past midnight studying each night in order to keep up. By the end of the football season, I was pretty worn down physically and mentally.”
All of Schumann’s hard work and perseverance began to pay off as he was named the starter at the Mike linebacker position his junior year.
“I could not have gotten to where I was without my coaches,” Schumann said. “My defensive coordinator was Jason Thoren who was a starting linebacker for the Kansas Jayhawks, and he made me the player that I was able to be. I owe everything to him. My linebacker coach was Tucker Pauley who played linebacker at Baker, and he along with Jason taught me how to call the defense. I could not have had better coaches.”
In the game against William Penn his junior season, Schumann finished the contest with 10 tackles — six of those being solo stops and 1.5 tackles for a loss. For his performance in that game, Schumann was named the Defensive Player of the Week in the Heart of America Conference. At the conclusion of his junior year, in which Baker finished with a 10-2 record, Schumann was named First Team All Conference linebacker.
Schumann’s senior season brought about a change in his position on the field.
“I was moved to the Will linebacker position, which allowed me the freedom to roam all over the field,” Schumann said. “I was really excited to get to play this spot on the field. I loved the freedom to run all over the place.”
The 2018 season was once again a very successful campaign for the Baker Wildcats as they finished the year with a 9-3 record and advanced to the quarterfinals of the NAIA Playoffs. The team finished the year ranked number five in the country.
In the four years that Schumann played for the Wildcats, the team won four straight Heart of America Athletic Conference South Division titles. The team won four straight conference championships and made four appearances in the NAIA-FCS National Playoffs — finishing second in the country in 2016.
Schumann finished up his senior season with some impressive stats. He finished the year leading his team with 121 tackles — 23 of which were a loss. He averaged 10.1 tackles a game. Schumann also forced three fumbles and had one interception. He finished third in the NAIA for total tackles for losses, fourth in the NAIA for tackles for loss per game, 11th in the NAIA in fumbles forced per game, and 17th in the NAIA for tackles per game. The amazing fact is that Schumann did all of that playing with another broken wrist for most of the year.
For all of these accolades, Schumann was named once again to the First Team Heart of America Defensive squad. The deserved recognition that Schumann received was being named a 2018 NAIA All American.
“Kegan was a real pleasure to coach,” said defensive coordinator Jason Thoren. “He was an extremely hardworking kid that was a silent leader on the field. He was very accountable, and he got the job done. He saw the field so well and was such a smart player. The kid had no ego and such a positive attitude, and he battled injuries for most of his senior season. The great thing is that he ended up being an All American at the end of his career.”
Schumann’s career represents a dream come true for a young man who grew up in a rural community playing football. He went from a linebacker deemed too small to play the position, to making himself into an All American at the college level by the end of his career.
“I was well prepared for this college game by Coach Michael,” Schumann said. “All of my coaches at Sabetha played a huge part of me being able to succeed at the next level.”
Coach Michael said he knew Schumann would be successful.
“I am very proud of Kegan’s career at Baker and his ending of it with being named an All American. It was truly an honor to have coached Kegan Schumann,” he said.
In what seems like a fitting ending to a perfect story, the story may truly be just beginning. Schumann is on track to graduate in May with his bachelor’s degree.
Immediately after graduation, Schumann will be leaving the United States to fly to Hinckley Leicestershire, England. Upon arrival across the ocean, Schumann will be continuing his dream of playing football when he suits up for the Leicester Falcons, a member of the British American National Football League.
The Falcons play in the Division 1 Premier Division, the top tier of European football. The Falcons sent representatives to Baker University to scout current players in hopes of convincing them to come to Europe to continue their careers. Schumann was one of those players.
“I will be getting paid to play football at the professional level,” Schumann said. “They will be paying for my master’s degree in exercise physiology while I am playing football.”
The Falcons will play a 14-game season that will be played throughout England.
“I will be rooming with my best friend from Baker, and we will be living in a house out in the country from Leicestershire,” Schumann said. “We will be living over there for around 18 months.”
Schumann is both excited and a little nervous about the next phase of his football career, but his head coach at Baker is confident he will succeed.
“Kegan Schumann just concluded an incredible career at Baker University. He represented our program on and off the field in a manner that made us all proud,” said Wildcat Head Coach Mike Grossner. “Kegan played the game with great passion and arrived with a purpose. It was a lot of fun to watch his development as a player. He will represent us very well in his upcoming European career. Congrats to Him!”