Former Ram Schmitt with British Columbia this year
After playing for the Grey Cup champion Saskatchewan Roughriders last season, former Shepherd punter Ricky Schmitt is with the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League this year.
Schmitt was a free agent after the 2013 season closed with the Roughriders winning Canada’s version of the NFL’s Lombardi Trophy. He signed with British Columbia and coach Mike Benevides.
Schmitt, who will turn 29 years old in August, had clipped moments in the NFL but never was on a team’s active roster for an entire season.
His 2013 season with the league champion Roughriders was his first in the CFL (Canadian Football League). He averaged 45 yards per punt for Saskatchewan. British Columbia signed him in February as a free agent.
While at Shepherd, Schmitt became the school’s all-time leader in every conceivable punting category with his cloud-tickling, left-footed spirals. He was also the Rams’ place kicker and often kicked off into opponents’ end zones for touchbacks. Shepherd recorded undefeated regular seasons while Schmitt was entrusted with all its kicking duties.
The 2014 CFL regular season is already in full motion and the Lions have a 2-2 record moving to this weekend’s games.
There are nine teams in the league, and they have spicy nicknames like the Calgary Stampeders, Hamilton Tiger-cats, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Ottawa REDBLACKS and Montreal Alouettes.
British Columbia lost its first two games to the Edmonton Eskimos and Montreal. In its last two games, the Lions defeated both Saskatchewan and Montreal.
Schmitt has punted at least six times in the Lions’ four games. His best two games found him averaging 48.1 yards on nine punts against Montreal and 44.7 yards on nine punts against Saskatchewan, his old team.
The league has 18 regular season games and began play on June 28. The last regular season game comes on November 7 and then the playoffs begin, leading to the crowning of the Grey Cup winner.
In its two home games to date, the Lions have drawn crowds of 24,524 and 25,063.
There are two divisions in the league with much of the strength resting in the section with Edmonton (4-0), Calgary (3-0), Winnipeg (3-1), British Columbia (2-2) and defending champion Saskatchewan (1-2). All four teams in the other division have losing records — Ottawa (1-2), Montreal (1-3), Toronto (1-3) and Hamilton (0-3).
The coveted Grey Cup was first awarded to the league champion in 1909.
Bristish Columbia has won six Grey Cup championships and lost in the title game on four occasions. Toronto leads the CFL in Grey Cup titles with 16.
Schmitt’s new home — Vancouver — will host the Grey Cup game this year.
When the 6-foot-3, 213-pound Schmitt came to Shepherd he had been a soccer standout in high school in the Tidewater area of Virginia.
He quickly established himself as a quality punter and placekicker with the Rams.
At Shepherd for four seasons, Schmitt was always the most effective punter in the old West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. His consistent excellence brought him all-conference honors . . . and helped the Rams win league championships before then entering the NCAA Division II playoffs.
After being undrafted by the NFL following his spectacular senior season at Shepherd, Schmitt was signed as a free agent by Arizona. After being cut by the Cardinals, he had brief stints with San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Green Bay and Arizona again. He lost favor with the 49ers when he had an extra point blocked in a regular season game.
Because of his continued bouncing from one NFL team to another — always being let go in the final reckoning, “Perseverance” could be Schmitt’s middle name for he always found another place to show his considerable wares.
He finally landed in Canada. And was rewarded with a Grey Cup league championship trophy at the end of the 2013 season.
Shepherd had never seen a combination punter/placekicker like Schmitt before his arrival on campus. And the Rams haven’t seen anything like him since his long and winding journey in the professional ranks began.