Jon Schaub doesn’t want to be anybody’s “wild card.”
He just wants another chance to show he can be productive as the starting quarterback at Pacific Lutheran University.
After Schaub’s season ended after five games in 2015 with a serious knee injury, nobody around the Lutes’ program was certain if he’d ever return to lead one of the most prolific offenses in NCAA Division III again.
But come Saturday, as the Lutes open the season hosting California Lutheran at Sparks Stadium, a recovered and renewed Schuab is expected to start under center.
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“I have the tools. And I had the people to help me recover,” Schaub said. “Whether I go down in the first game, or the last game of the season, I want to give it my best shot.”
Known for his strong faith, selfless attitude and huddle command, Schuab has always been a favorite among teammates.
After waiting patiently for two seasons as all-Northwest Conference signal caller Dalton Ritchey’s backup (2013-14), Schaub became the starter last season as a junior.
The Salem, Oregon, product played the first half of the season, ceding some playing time to talented freshman Cole Chandler. The results were mixed — Schaub threw for 1,151 yards and five touchdowns, but was hit often. He threw six interceptions and lost two fumbles.
Then his life changed Oct. 17 at Whitworth.
On a pass play, Schaub said he felt the pocket breaking down so he started to run. Seconds later, one Whitworth played jumped on top of him, and another defender grabbed his right leg.
“My body rolled a couple extra times on the ground,” Schaub said. “I did not feel a pop in my knee, just a quick burn.”
On the sideline, the Lutes’ athletic training staff did a few tests to see if he had damaged his knee. They concluded he had just got it twisted.
Schaub played the rest of the game in the Lutes’ 32-7 loss. On the bus ride home, Schaub said his knee felt stiff and ached.
A week later, he had a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test performed on it in Vancouver. On the way back home with his parents, he got the news — his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) was torn. His season was over.
“I dropped the phone and lost it,” Schaub said.
Schaub had surgery in November. Over the next month, the soul-searching over his future began.
It all came to a climax during a family getaway at the beach. Sitting with his father, grandfather and brother, he presented them a list of pros and cons on why he should try and return to football.
“To be honest, the list of reasons why I shouldn’t play was twice as long,” Schaub said. “But I looked at it closely, and the smaller list of why I should play was way more important.”
A cool thing emerged from the aftermath of Schaub’s surgery — his competition at quarterback wanted to help out.
In other programs, quarterbacks might have ignored the situation to tend to their own offsesason workout programs and future outlooks. At PLU, things are a little different.
“Those four guys became best friends,” PLU coach Scott Westering said. “They eat together. They go to movies together. They help each other with family issues.”
And they help out in emergencies, too.
Needing to visit a doctor in Portland, Schaub was stuck in Tacoma with no ride and his parents were busy.
So, Chandler, LaVoy, Nolan Hoover and Schaub all jumped in Hoover’s car for an afternoon drive.
“They gave up 4-5 hours of their day stuck in a small car,” Schaub said. “It goes to show, from the first string to the last string ... we are on the same level relationship-wise.”
Schaub’s recovery has had its trying moments: Westering said he “overworked” the knee early in spring camp, and was forced to sit out the rest of practices.
And in July, he had another setback trying to do too much activity, Westering said.
“He just has to watch how much work he does,” the coach said.
But in training camp, Schaub won his starting job back even though he will likely, again, sit out a few offensive series in games to allow Chandler to play.
“I am so proud of this young man,” Westering said.
So are his teammates, who are excited to have one of their team leaders back in the huddle.
“The guys are so protective of me,” Schaub said. “I am their quarterback, and they will do whatever it takes to protect me, help me, serve me and lead me. And now, the entire offense is looking forward to seeing how I react in games.”
Pacific Lutheran Lutes
Coach: Scott Westering, 13th year (64-46 record),
2015 record: 2-7, 2-5 in NWC (tied for fifth),
2016 preseason coaches pick: Sixth.
Offensive coordinator (base scheme): Scott Westering/Trevor Roberts (multiple).
Returning offensive starters (10): LT Alex Fairhurst, 6-4, 260, so.; LG Lucas Hatton, 6-0. 250, sr.; C Austin Striplin, 6-2, 270, jr.; RT Christiano Mazziotti, 6-2, 300, sr.; QB Jon Schaub, 6-1, 205, sr. OR QB Cole Chandler, 6-2, 190, so.; RB Marc Gallant, 5-8, 190, jr.; FB Darin Hardgrove, 5-10, 205, sr.; TE D.J. Winter, 6-2, 232, jr.; WR Juston Lind, 5-11, 200, sr.; WR Ben Welch, 5-11, 180, jr.
Defensive coordinator (base scheme): Craig McCord (3-3).
Returning defensive starters (6): NG Maurice Rodriguez, 6-0, 255, sr.; MLB Parker Smith, 6-0, 225, sr.; OLB Isaiah Watkins, 5-10, 215, jr.; FS Derek Chase, 6-1, 187, sr.; SS Carson Ketter, 6-3, 205, jr.; SS Travis McMillion, 6-1, 205, jr.
Special teams coordinator: Jud Keim.
Returning special teams starters (5): LS George Foster, 5-10, 255, sr.; PK Dallan Rodriguez, 5-10, 185, jr.; P Anthony Louthan, 6-0, 210, so.; KR Marc Gallant, 5-8, 190, jr.; PR Ben Welch, 5-11, 180, jr.
Outlook: Westering has been around this program for 35 years, and he’s never seen what took place in 2015. It mainly had to do with all the ravaging injuries to key regulars during spring ball, fall camp and the regular season. One of them was to Schaub (knee), which handed the keys of the offense to Chandler and Walker LaVoy at different points. The result was a 2-7 season — PLU’s worst season since going 1-8 in 1963. Fast-forward nine months later, and the Lutes should be in much better shape. For starters, better size, experience and talent along the offensive line, led by Striplin and Hatton, should allow Westering to “turn pages in the playbook” he couldn’t last season. And if oft-injured Kellen Westering (knee, hamstring), the coach’s son, can stay on the field, this should be a good wide receiving corps with Lind, Welch and Beau Lockmer. On defense, PLU will return to being more zone-oriented. The Lutes gave up 10 touchdowns on pass plays of 25 yards or longer.
2016 schedule: Saturday vs. California Lutheran, 1 p.m.; Sept. 17 at Trinity (Texas), 4 p.m.; Oct. 1 vs. Pacific (Ore.), 1 p.m.; Oct. 8 at Willamette (Ore.), 1 p.m.; Oct. 15 vs. Whitworth, 1 p.m.; Oct. 22 at George Fox (Ore.), 1 p.m.; Oct. 29 vs. Puget Sound, 1 p.m.; Nov. 5 vs. Lewis & Clark (Ore.), 1 p.m.; Nov. 12 at Linfield (Ore.), 1 p.m.