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Former Falcon participates in bowl game, preps for NFL Draft

February 7, 2008

The Tostito’s Fiesta Bowl held Jan. 2 in Glendale, Ariz. had an unexpected local twist with the play of UW-River Falls alumnus Owen Schmitt.

Schmitt is originally from Gilman, Wis. but moved with his mother to Fairfax, Va. in eighth grade and was a 2003 graduate of Fairfax High School.

As a high school junior, Schmitt sent a highlights tape to Falcon head coach John O’Grady.

O’Grady had met Schmitt at a summer football camp when Schmitt was still in grade school and living with his grandfather in Gilman.

“I thought he was a very good player as a junior, and people were making a mistake not recruiting him,” O’Grady said.

Schmitt ended up coming to UWRF for his freshman year, and immediately stood out from the rest of the team.

“It was very obvious from the first practice that he was unusually fast, athletic and strong for his age and he was probably one of the fastest guys on our team,” O’Grady said.

Schmitt rushed for 1,063 yards and scored five touchdowns that season, on his way to being named to the 2003 All-WIAC Team.

After the season ended, O’Grady said he talked very openly with him about transferring.

“I told him I thought he had a chance at a scholarship from a Div. I school,” O’Grady said.

Schmitt transferred to West Virginia University for the 2005 season and has become a valuable part of the Mountaineers’ offense. He rushed for 380 yards and scored two touchdowns that year, following that with 351 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2006 and 272 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2007.

“Him leaving here was a painful time for this program, but there is no anger towards him. The bottom line is it was the best thing for him,” O’Grady said.

In August of 2006 Schmitt was featured on the cover of a regional issue of Sports Illustrated along with running back Steve Slaton and quarterback Pat White.

In the Fiesta Bowl, Schmitt scored the first touchdown for WVU (ranked no. 11 in the Bowl Championship Series) on the way to an upset win over No. 3 ranked Oklahoma.

After two field goals by WVU in the first quarter, Schmitt rushed for 57 yards for a touchdown with 6:29 left in the second quarter.  His touchdown made the score 13-3, a lead that WVU would never relinquish.

The game ended with a 48-28 final score.

Schmitt has become somewhat of a cult hero at WVU, spawning groups on Facebook with titles like “Chuck Norris fears Owen Schmitt” and “Owen Schmitt: Crusher of Skulls.”

A Sept. 12, 2007, Washington Post story by Eli Saslow mentions that Schmitt has destroyed eight face masks during his college career, and quotes former WVU coach Rich Rodriguez as saying “I didn’t know you could bend those things before.”

Schmitt has graduated from WVU and will enter the 2008 NFL draft.

In a Jan. 25 article by Chris Low for ESPN.com, Low states that Schmitt is “one of the top two fullbacks in the NFL draft.”

“I absolutely think he will do something in the NFL, and not just at fullback and they should use him at tailback,” O’Grady said. “He has everything it takes.”