Schemm blossoms in Navy's ascent He sheds frustrations to become go-to man

November 16, 1996|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

Cory Schemm has enjoyed two productive football seasons at the Naval Academy, but the senior slotback is best remembered for two plays that failed.

The first has already become part of Army-Navy folklore. It occurred in the fourth quarter of last year's game when the Midshipmen, leading 13-7 with 8: 37 to play, faced a fourth down inside the Army 1-yard line.

Coach Charlie Weatherbie spurned a field goal and opted for a pass play, expecting the defense to be bunched at the line. In fact, Schemm broke clear in the end zone, only to have quarterback Chris McCoy underthrow him.

Army breathed a sigh of relief and then marched 99 yards for the winning touchdown.

"I think it caught Chris by surprise that it was so wide open and he kind of rushed it," Schemm recalled. "The next 100 times, he would have put the ball right in my chest. But Chris had a super, super season and also put us in a position to beat Army. But that's the one play people remember."

Two weeks ago, Schemm had another chance to write Navy history against Notre Dame in Ireland. He caught two touchdown passes, but it was a third touchdown, nullified in the second quarter, that might have changed the outcome -- a 54-27 victory by the Irish.

Trailing 14-7, McCoy spotted Schemm behind the Notre Dame defense and lofted a 55-yard touchdown pass. But McCoy was flagged for passing the line of scrimmage, and Navy never regained the momentum.

The bespectacled Schemm, a pre-med student who looks more like a young professor than a football player, has

put all the melodramatic "ifs" behind him and has joined his Navy teammates in trying to end a four-year Army jinx and gain a bowl bid for the first time since 1978.

After missing all of spring practice, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound back has blossomed as the Mids' big-play man. He caught four FTC passes against Notre Dame and followed up last week against Delaware with two receptions for 56 yards and seven carries for 67 yards.

"Cory was a wide receiver when he first came here," said Weatherbie, "but we thought he had the athleticism to play slotback. At that position, you have to be able to run, catch and block, and Cory has proven he can do all three. Plus, he has a knack for finding the seams in the defense."

That is a lot of praise for a blue-chip recruit who was restricted to playing plebe and JV ball by Weatherbie's predecessor, George Chaump. Schemm gave serious consideration to quitting the team and concentrating on his studies.

"I was totally frustrated," said Schemm, a USA Today All-America pick coming out of Maryvale High near Buffalo.

"I had scholarship offers from schools like Syracuse, North Carolina and Wake Forest. But I was interested in pursuing a medical career. The last school I visited was Navy, and a big consideration was the fact that they pay all your medical tuition as long as you fulfill your service obligation."

Still, Schemm yearned to play football and could not fathom Chaump's indifference.

"I was left in the dark," he said. "I tried talking to the coaches, but there was no communication. The feedback was, 'That's just the way it is.'

"That's what I really like about this staff. If they think someone is better than you, they'll flat-out tell you that you have to improve to win a spot or you'll never see the field. I can take that.

"It was all the wondering before that made me mad why I'm not out there. But when this new staff came, it was a clean slate. They said the best people would play. Now I know if I sit out a quarter, it's because I screwed up."

Given a chance to play last year in Navy's new flexbone offense, Schemm caught 25 passes for 327 yards and rushed for an additional 202.

"I give a lot of credit to [running backs coach] Ken Niumatalolo," Schemm said. "He's the best coach I've ever had. He stresses the mental as well as the physical side of football. He breaks down films and makes everything very basic."

Still, Schemm again gave serious thought to quitting football after re-injuring his shoulder following corrective surgery.

"It kept popping out of place," he said. "But our trainers devised this special harness, and I haven't had any trouble playing with it this year."

Schemm rose from the bottom of the depth chart at the start of the season to share the demanding slotback position with Pat McGrew and Ross Scott. For Schemm, football has become fun again.

"After we assured a winning season by beating Delaware last week, my mother said, 'Now, aren't you glad you stayed at Navy after going through all the rough times?'

"A lot of people back home questioned my decision to come to the Academy. But now I know I made the right one. In two seasons, I've seen the program change from one of the worst to the best in the last 14 years, and we can still have a chance to add to it."

Pub Date: 11/16/96

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