Joe Schobert story: The other walk-on from Waukesha

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 01: Tyler Kroft #81 of the Cincinnati Bengals makes a touch down catch and is taken down by Joe Schobert #53 of the Cleveland Browns in the second half at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 1, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller /Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 01: Tyler Kroft #81 of the Cincinnati Bengals makes a touch down catch and is taken down by Joe Schobert #53 of the Cleveland Browns in the second half at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 1, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller /Getty Images) /

Cleveland Browns linebacker Joe Schobert is heading into the final year of his rookie contract. Not always touted as the talented player he is today, here’s the story of how he became the player we all know.

Joe Schobert came out of high school as a 6-foot-2 195-pound safety from Waukesha West High School in Waukesha, Wisconsin according to his 247 page. Waukesha, Wisconsin is a town located in southeastern Wisconsin and has produced some serious NFL talent. Other current NFL players from Waukesha, Wisconsin include J.J. Watt, T.J. Watt, Derek Watt, and former Cleveland Browns guard Kevin Zeitler.

There have also been a few former NFL players to have come from Waukesha, and also Olympic gold medalist Paul Hamm and the inventor of Spaghetti-Os Donald Goerke was also born in this town. Needless to say, there is a surprising amount of athleticism in this town of 70,000 people up in Wisconsin.

According to an interview with ESPN staff writer Jesse Temple, Joe Schobert originally planned to attend the University of North Dakota and join the Fighting Hawks football team as a walk-on. Schobert had not received any scholarship offers out of high school, so this was his best option to continue his career as a student-athlete. In the interview, it was revealed that Schobert was the star player on Waukesha West’s state championship team, and he played both running back and safety.

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As Schobert flew under the radar, one person noticed him before he was set to go walk-on at North Dakota. That person was Melvin Gordon’s high school coach, Jed Kennedy.

Jed Kennedy contacted the Wisconsin coaching staff, who officially offered Schobert a walk-on spot to Wisconsin the day before he was going to drive to the University of North Dakota and become a walk-on there.

Who knows how Schobert’s life would have unfolded if it were not for Melvin Gordon’s high school coach, Jed Kennedy, spotting him and getting the Wisconsin coaching staff and then head coach Bret Bielema to take a look at the diamond-in-the-rough prospect.

As a true freshman walk-on, Joe Schobert ended up appearing in five games and winning the 2012 Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year award for the Wisconsin Badgers. He earned a scholarship after his freshman season. In sports, it seems like every year a walk-on earns a scholarship at a top tier program. Sometimes, that takes away from the actual accomplishment that is, considering how often it seems like it happens. It’s actually quite rare, as the majority of walk-ons usually end up quitting or never earning a scholarship.

What’s even rarer for walk-ons is seeing them eventually earn conference honors. In 2014, Schobert’s Junior year, he earned an All-Big Ten honorable mention. In 2015, Schobert earned All-Big Ten first-team all-conference honors, along with the Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year award, naming him the best linebacker in the Big Ten. Former Browns safety Jabrill Peppers also was on that first team all-defensive team that season.

For Schobert to have a college career like the one he had was a one in a million chance that speaks to his personal work ethic. To go from almost walking on to an FCS school to Big Ten linebacker of the year award over your college career is something that would usually only happens in movies. As we all know, Schobert’s incredible story doesn’t stop there.

The Cleveland Browns would select Joe Schobert with the first pick in the 4th round in the 2016 NFL draft. He was the 99th selection overall. The linebackers taken ahead of him include Leonard Floyd, Darron Lee, Kevin Dodd, Jaylon Smith, Myles Jack, Reggie Ragland, Kamalei Correa, Deion Jones, Su’a Cravens, Jordan Jenkins, Nick Vigil, and Kyler Fackrell. For those of you counting at home, that’s 12 linebackers total. Of those 12 only Deion Jones has made a Pro Bowl.

According to, Schobert’s NFL comparison was Jermauria Rasco, an undrafted linebacker who never played a snap in a regular-season game. Outside of the Cleveland Browns organization, expectations were not high for Schobert. Despite all of this, here we are, entering the final year of Schobert’s rookie contract, with Schobert looking to get a deal averaging 10 million dollars or more a year.

33 NFL starts, 45 NFL games total, two interceptions, five forced fumbles, 6.5 sacks, eight tackles for loss, and 251 tackles later Schobert is still here. If his career were to end now, he would go down as one of the greatest college walk-ons to ever play in the NFL. However, he is 25 years old, turning 26 this season and should have another 5-10 NFL seasons left in him.

Schobert doesn’t get the same respect as J.J. Watt and Baker Mayfield do when you consider college walk-ons who have been great in the NFL. J.J. Watt is a certified Hall of Famer, and Baker Mayfield hopefully will be too someday, but Schobert still deserves to be mentioned in the same conversation when talking about great NFL players who were college walk-ons.

The Cleveland fan base needs to appreciate Schobert and his story more, and enjoy him this season while we have him. If John Dorsey and the Cleveland Browns decide to not bring him back next season, then Browns fans should remember Schobert as one of the best players during the dark ages of the Hue Jackson era.

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One last note, to any college coaches reading this article, make sure to start recruiting out of Waukesha, Wisconsin. Any town that produces this level of NFL talent as college walk-ons deserves some more looks.