Before the Miami Dolphins picked Billy Turner 67th overall last year, Nick Schommer was the last Bison to be selected in the NFL Draft. The 2009 241st overall pick spoke to us this week about the draft process and relived the moment he found out he was about to start living his childhood dream of being a professional football player.
Bison Illustrated: When did you realize that getting drafted and going to the NFL was a real possibility?
Nick Schommer: “I first realized it my junior year. There was a possibility after (Craig) Dahl made it. He went as an undrafted free agent, and after he made it, I pretty much thought by training and playing with him a lot and the fact he was having a bunch of success in the NFL, I figured it was actually going to be a possibility.”
BI: Did you approach your training before your senior season any differently after knowing your dream was that much closer to you?
NS: “I just had to continue what I’d done in the past because coach (Jim) Kramer had gotten me to where I was and I just figured everything I had done up to that point, I might as well do the same thing. So I didn’t really do anything differently; it was more or less sticking to the course and continuing to listen to the people that got me there. Between coach (Craig) Bohl and Willy Mack (Garza), I really feel I had some of the best coaches and position specific coaches that were the best in the country.”
BI: So where were you during the 2009 NFL Draft?
NS: “I was at home (Prescott, Wis) and it was just me and my family. I didn’t want a big group of people because Dahl had a draft party the year before and Drago (Mike Dragosavich) had a draft party and they were two of the guys that could potentially get drafted from NDSU and neither got drafted, but they had parties. So I didn’t want to have a party because of that fact.”
BI: So when did you find out Tennessee took you?
NS: “I started getting phone calls probably towards the end of the fifth round and I probably got seven to eight phone calls and it was just team inquiring saying, ‘Hey, we like you. We’re not using a draft pick on you, but if you don’t get drafted we’d like to sign you as an undrafted free agent.’ So I said okay and I was doing that all day. Then I got a call from a 615 number, which I didn’t put two and two together because Minneapolis is 651, so I got a phone call and it was a girl on the other end. She said, ‘Hi, is this Nick?’ I said, ‘Yeah,’ and I was, I wasn’t angry on the phone, but I was like ‘who is calling me? Who is this girl?‘ She said, ‘Hold on a second.’ And I really didn’t put two and two together that it was 615 instead of 651 and then the guy that came on the phone was Johnny Meads, who was a scout of the Tennessee Titans at the time. He said, ‘Hey Nick, this is Johnny Meads, scout for the Tennessee Titans, how would you like to become a Titan?’ And I said, ‘I’d love to.’ And he told me I was going to be their next pick. And literally as he was saying that, the ESPN ticker came on and said my name, drafted by the Tennessee Titans or whatever so it pretty much happened simultaneously. It was a pretty cool moment to be honest. It was definitely something that not a lot of people ever get to experience and it was something I’ll never forget.”
BI: Any tears?
NS: “No, I don’t think I cried (laughs). My girlfriend at the time said she thought I was tearing up, but I’m 100 percent sure I didn’t cry. I don’t really get tears of enjoyment like that. It was a pretty sweet moment, though.”
BI: You had four months after your last college game to prepare for your pro day. What was your timetable leading up to that day you could perform in front of the scouts?
NS: “What I did was, actually coach Kramer recommended I take some time off because the NFL season is such a long season that once you get into it, there’s no cutting back. Basically, once OTAs and the offseason programs get started with the team, it was going to be from, they reduced it now, it started in May and was basically from then to January was your season. So I took some time off to recompose and basically get healthy before I took that long stretch into football season. At that point, after my senior season if I did get an opportunity I didn’t know if I was going to be drafted or undrafted and whatnot, but I knew I was going to be in a camp so I figured I might as well make it for the long haul.”
BI: So when did your training begin?
NS: “Probably mid-December.”
BI: Where were you at?
NS: “I actually stayed on-campus. With my degree, I was either going to have to take a semester off of school and come back and finish another time or basically train on-campus and finish my degree, finish my classes. You know, everyone wants to go and have a 10-year NFL career, but that’s just not realistic so I figured the most important thing was to get my college degree so if the NFL didn’t work out, at least I’d have something to fall back on. So I wanted to stay on-campus and graduate. I could’ve gone and trained with T-Roehl (Tyler Roehl) and (Kole) Heckendorf and those guys in the cities if I wanted to, but I just chose to stay in school.”
BI: Was there anything specific that you were working on before your pro day because you knew the scouts were focusing on that more than anything else?
NS: “Just coming from a small school, I felt that I was going to have to run well. Obviously, a lot is put on the 40 and to get a realistic opportunity I had to run a good 40. I ended up not running a good 40 and it came down to my game film, which I guess spoke the loudest and was what got me drafted. Nothing really in particular that I had to work on I just figured if I ran a good 40 that was going to be the biggest thing. If I could run at 4.4 it would’ve done a lot for me.”
BI: You were one of the two guys from the Missouri Valley Football Conference to get drafted in 2009 and this year it looks like seven or eight guys will get drafted from the conference. What does that say about the level of the opponents NDSU is playing week-in and week-out?
NS: “It’s become a really good football conference and every year it’s getting stronger. The biggest thing I think is that there’s not as big of a separation between FBS and FCS anymore. I think there use to be a bigger separation and especially with NDSU going on and beating Kansas State, Minnesota, and all these bigger schools and we’ve had pretty much beaten them up and that’s not just NDSU, that’s a lot of other FCS schools across the country. It has shown people that there’s not really that big of separation as there use to be. A lot of these kids from smaller schools can play good football. It’s helping a lot of guys like Kyle (Emanuel) and John (Crockett) who are going to get drafted and who knows what would’ve happened five, six, seven years ago.”
BI: What’s some advice you can give guys like Kyle Emanuel and John Crockett, or any late round draft pick about the journey after being selected?
NS: “Enjoy the moment, but at the same time once you get drafted, it really doesn’t matter what round it was in. It doesn’t matter where you start it matters where you finish. I heard that a lot of times. There’s no question early draft picks are favored and get better opportunities than later round draft picks and free agents, there’s no question about that. At the same time if you go in there and work hard and do what you’ve done your whole career and keep making plays, you’re going to get found and you’ll be given a chance. You just have to make the most of your opportunities and roll with it.”