NOTE: This article originally appeared in the August 26 issue of CAROLINA: The Magazine.
By Ben Brown
Once an undersized walk-on linebacker on the Carolina football team in 2011, Jeff Schoettmer has climbed the ladder in his collegiate career to become one of the most important players on the defensive side of the ball.
Ben Brown: After having such a strong season last year, how do you look to improve this year?
Jeff Schoettmer: “I want to be the leader of the defense; that’s the responsibility of the middle linebacker. I want to take some young guys under my wing and I want to take this defense to places that we’ve never gone before. We had a strong end to last season, and I just want to continue that success. Personally, I worked hard to get my shoulder strength back up after I had surgery on it in the off-season, and I feel like I’m stronger than I ever have been.”
BB: Your father played football at Duke. Do you guys have a friendly rivalry at home?
JS: “It was kind of weird at first. My sophomore year, we played at Duke and he was there, but he was sitting with all of his alumni buddies. Obviously he’s cheering for me, but it is funny to see him wear some Carolina Blue. I told him four years ago that I was going to go to Carolina and he’d just say, ‘Shut up’. But he’s adapted well, and he’s happy for me in whatever I’m doing. “
BB: I saw that your favorite thing to do on your off days is to play golf. What’s the best round you’ve ever played?
JS: “My career low is a 79 at a course in Dallas called Lakewood.”
BB: You’re also friends with PGA Tour pro Jordan Spieth. Have you ever played with him?
JS: “I haven’t played with him recently, but growing up we used to always play football, basketball and baseball together, and then he was always golfing on the side. Me and my best friend Brian Wetzel, who plays football at Fordham University, we would always go play golf with Jordan in the summer, and we beat Jordan once. It was me and Brian against Jordan, so we like to tell people that. Jordan doesn’t really take credit for it, but he knows he lost.”
BB: What was behind you changing numbers this year?
“First thing was our three linebackers: Norkeithus Otis is #8, Travis Hughes is #9 and so I wanted to be #10 so that we could be #8, #9, #10. And then another reason is my mom, who was a basketball player in high school and she wore #10, so I wanted to show some respect to her. And I just like the number, really, and I wanted something new.”
BB: What do you think is the best part of your game?
JS: “I think I have great instincts, whether that’s in pass coverage or in run defense. I feel like I can get the guys to rally around me pretty well and guys respond to me. I think bringing the team together is a big part of my game.”
BB: Is it hard to manage expectations when you’re heading into the season nationally ranked?
JS: “No I don’t think so. It’s a little chip on our shoulders. We get some added motivation and we’ve got the media giving us some praise but it really boils down to how hard we work, and we feel like we deserve the Top 25 ranking. We just feel more confident about ourselves and we’re excited to start the season.”