Iowa turns to unknown walk-on named ‘Shooter’ at guard

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              Iowa offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs (74) blocks Miami of Ohio defensive lineman Dean Lemon, left, during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — “Shooter” is about to get his shot at Iowa.

Guard Kyler Schott — an unknown walk-on with zero NCAA scholarship offers coming out of his tiny eastern Iowa high school — is set to join the Hawkeyes‘ starting lineup. Iowa has been forced to reshuffle the line after losing tackle Alaric Jackson to a sprained knee.

The 20th-ranked Hawkeyes slid Tristan Wirfs from right tackle to left tackle after Jackson went down in last week’s 38-14 win over Miami (Ohio). Guard Levi Paulsen switched to right tackle and Schott, a redshirt sophomore from Coggon, Iowa, with three career snaps to his credit, took over for Paulsen.

Schott, who is generously listed at 6-foot-2 and 290 pounds, is in line to start for Iowa (1-0) when it hosts Rutgers (1-0) on Saturday.

“He’s one of those guys that’s, I don’t want to call him nondescript, but he’s not flashy,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “If you watch him closely, he just does a lot of things really well.”

Iowa has had a ton of success developing overlooked, in-state kids under Ferentz, most of them unearthed by recently retired assistant coach Reese Morgan.

Schott had three things going against him: He was too short, his high school was too small and his knees (one of them, at least) were, well, shot.

Schott earned all-state honors in football and wrestling for North Linn High, whose enrollment is just over 200. Still, Schott’s recruitment was limited a single phone call from Upper Iowa University and a promise of some financial relief from Iowa Central Community College, in part because of knee injuries.

Morgan, whose track record of finding small-town gems includes 2017 All-American linebacker Josey Jewell, was convinced that Schott deserved a chance, partly because of his success as a wrestler.

He did not immediately impress, but stuck with it. Schott got his nickname because line coach Tim Polasek thought his last name was instead pronounced “shoot” early on. Some teammates continue to call him “Jack Black” because of his resemblance to the doughy actor.

But despite facing long odds, Schott knew the Hawkeyes would at least give him a shot at fulfilling his dream to play at the Division I level.

“They don’t treat us any differently. We get fed the same. We get coached the same. So I knew that if I was tough enough I could do it here,” Schott said. “You’ve got to be tough. You’ve got to tell yourself that you’re going to push yourself every day and hopefully earn that scholarship.”

Schott quickly won over his teammates and coaches with his work ethic and a personality quarterback Nate Stanley described as “hilarious.” Schott’s knee problems also went away over time, and after a redshirt year he moved into a reserve role in 2018.

Schott’s breakthrough came in camp last month, and the plan last weekend was to have Schott rotate in with Paulsen at right guard. Jackson’s injury changed everything, and Schott found himself playing with a line that helped Iowa average 5.2 yards per run and score touchdowns on four of five possessions.

“It was unreal. It was a dream of mine to play football here,” Schott said. “Being able to finally say like, ‘I can do this’ playing against other people, you finally realize what you’re made of.”