DEKALB – He’s almost like the Great American success story.
A year ago, Jason Schepler walked onto the Northern Illinois University football team. Despite leading the Spartans to their first playoff game in several years his senior year, the Sycamore High School graduate wasn’t offered a scholarship.
Through hard work and determination, Schepler played his way into 11 games for the Huskies in 2008. Besides special teams, he also saw some time at tight end.
“When we used two tight ends, I was the second,” he said. “I didn’t expect to play as much as I did.”
He caught a pair of passes for 15 yards, including a 9-yarder against Navy.
For his efforts, Schepler was awarded a full scholarship this summer. He also is listed along with junior Bryan Beckner as a possible starter for this season, which starts Sept. 6 at the University of Wisconsin.
“He certainly has an opportunity to start for us,” NIU head coach Jerry Kill said, adding that Schepler is a product of good parents (Bill and Susan Schepler) and a strong work ethic. “He’s a young man who works real hard.”
Despite a long career in football, on both sides of the ball, Schepler said he had never played tight end before last year.
“They needed some tight ends,” Schepler said, in explaining how he got picked. “And they told me to play it.”
At 6-foot, 3-inches and 255 pounds, the muscular Schepler – who started out as a running back in high school – seemed an ideal fit at tight end.
“I think playing on the line in high school helped give me an idea of what it’s like,” he said. “I think it’s a good position. Not only do you block on the line, but you run the routes, too.”
Besides tight end, Schepler said he will still play on special teams this season, including kickoff returns, punt returns and field goal attempts. One of his goals for this season, he said, is to improve his “hand placement and footwork.”
Schepler is also optimistic about the 2009 NIU Huskie team.
“I think we’ll be better,” he said. “Everyone already knows the plays.”
One of the highlights of last year, of course, was playing in the Independence Bowl. Although the Huskies lost to Louisiana Tech, 17-10, it was still quite an experience for everyone.
“It was a lot of fun,” Schepler said.
Although playing college ball is a lot like what he thought it would be, Schepler said it’s “more time consuming” than he had expected.
His senior year at SHS, Schepler was named the Male Athlete of the Year by the Daily Chronicle.
A three-year varsity starter in football and two-time all-conference selection, he was the team’s Most Valuable Defensive Player his senior year.
Schepler also distinguished himself on the mat, twice qualifying for the state wrestling tournament.
He graduated in 2008, with school records in wrestling (falls) and track (discus).
Schepler is one of two SHS gridiron stars on the Huskies. The other is Kevin Sabock, whose Huskie career has been slowed due to an injury.
After red-shirting last year, Kill said Sabock was injured prior to the Indepedence Bowl and required “major knee surgery.”
“He’s not ready to play for us,” Kill said.
While at SHS, Sabock was a four-time varsity letter winner.