Kyle Schmitt knows a thing or two about Division I walk-ons.
The Atholton coach and former Maryland offensive lineman was a Terps grad assistant when his younger brother Dewey came to College Park. The 6-foot, 236-pound athlete played five positions in high school and didn’t appear to have a clear-cut path to playing time at Maryland.
But the younger Schmitt was a scout-team all-star during his freshman year, and the following fall he emerged as the Terps’ starting long snapper – a role he never relinquished during the remainder of his college career. From indistinguishable walk-on to indispensable starter, Dewey Schmitt was an inspiration for any non-scholarship player looking to make a name for himself.
Kyle Schmitt is hopeful that two of his former players take a page out of his brother’s overachieving playbook. Two Atholton stars – quarterback Brian McMahon and linebacker Ean Katz – will join the Maryland football team this fall as preferred walk-ons.
“I told both of them that No. 1, I wouldn’t have recommended them in my talks with Maryland if they didn’t have an opportunity to contribute,” Schmitt said. “Ultimately, my younger brother went to Maryland as a walk-on long snapper. By the time I was a GA there, we weren’t leaving unless he was on the bus.”
McMahon, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound senior, was first-team All-Howard County at quarterback after throwing for 1,289 yards and 13 touchdowns, while rushing for 772 yards and eight scores. The future Terp completed more than 60 percent of his passes for the Howard County-champion Raiders, but he got very little interest as a signal-caller from college recruiters. The Terps coaching staff, however, was intrigued by McMahon’s potential at tight end after he worked out at the position in camp.
“Athletically, I think he’s a Division I athlete,” Schmitt said. “And I told him if he played tight end for us, I really think that he would be at least a 1-AA type of kid, or a Division I type of athlete. That wasn’t what was best for us. But he runs a 4.6, he power-cleans 300 pounds, bench presses 300 pounds. He’s only going to get bigger and stronger. I really think he’s got a great upside as an athlete. It was the best move for him.”
A lifelong Maryland fan, McMahon said he received interest from several Ivy League and Patriot League schools. The 3.9 student had an offer from Colgate, but ultimately narrowed his options down to Johns Hopkins – a Division III program – and Maryland’s preferred walk-on spot. Playing for the Terps proved too tough to turn down.
“Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to play for Maryland. I was pretty excited when they called,” said McMahon, who plans to study business. “It seemed like the best fit. … Everyone’s really excited for me to go play there. They all want to be a part of it. They’re all very excited.”
Katz had received interest from three Football Championship Subdivision programs in Bryant, Elon and Towson, but the 6-foot-3, 225-pound senior held out hope for something bigger. The Terps coaches were impressed with Katz’s senior film, and called Schmitt to offered a preferred walk-on spot last month. Maryland wanted a decision within a few days, and Katz happily accepted right away.
“It’s always been a dream, and now I get a chance to live it,” Katz said. “As long as I stick to it and work hard, I think I can be a key factor and a key player running through that tunnel.”
Schmitt said Katz turned 17 shortly before a senior year in which he recorded 66 tackles. Another season of high school football for Katz could’ve made a significant difference in his recruiting, but Schmitt still thinks the young linebacker with a size-17 shoe has “tremendous upside.”
“He’s a younger senior who I think just blossomed,” Schmitt said. “He’s got a great work ethic and was one of the best defensive players in our county this year. It’s a similar situation to Brian. A lot of schools wanted to see him just a little more. He’s a bit of a tweener. He played MIKE linebacker for us. … He’s a kid I think has got great upside. He’ll do really well.”
Predicting big contributions for McMahon and Katz at Maryland isn’t something Schmitt will do. The Raiders coach – speaking as a former Terps player and assistant – knows better than most just how tough it is to crack the two-deep on an ACC team’s depth chart. But what he did advise his players to do is “find a way” to stand out to the coaching staff.
“It might be a snapper, might be as a guy on special teams, might be as a second- or third-string tight end,” Schmitt said. “What I told these kids is I want you to go and have as much success as you can. Be in a situation in four years where you’re like an undrafted free agent in the NFL. They’re going to try and replace you for four years. You’ve got to get ahead of that wave and really make yourself indispensable.”