Unheralded Schmidgall Rises to Football Prominence

By Jack Williams

George Godsey and David Schmidgall are football teammates and roommates at Georgia Tech who share many of the same interests. But to say these guys see eye-to-eye on everything really would be stretching the point.

You see, Godsey is the quarterback and Schmidgall the center – and they aren’t exactly face-to-face out there on the gridiron. The only eyes they see then are those of enemy defenders ready to throw somebody for a 10-yard loss.

Godsey and Schmidgall are extremely close friends, however, and both say their off-the-field relationship helps when it comes time to get the Georgia Tech offense moving into high gear.

“We talk a lot about football and our assignments,” Schmidgall says. “I think the fact that we share a friendship off the field really is helpful. In games, George comes to the line of scrimmage, takes a look at the defense and gives me the play. I then have to relay the play to the other linemen. It certainly helps that George and I are on the same page.”

You know all about Godsey. He was one of the most talked-about quarterbacks in college football last season, helping drive the Yellow Jackets to a 9-3 overall record. He passed for 2,906 yards and 23 touchdowns and made second team All-Atlantic Coast Conference behind Heisman Trophy winner, Chris Weinke of Florida State. He is sitting out Tech’s spring practice after under-going knee surgery following a Peach Bowl loss to Louisiana State.

But what about Schmidgall, a guy who has surprised everyone in his drive to be the starting center on a major college team? How did a walk-on who was not recruited by a single Division I school finally find his way to football prominence?

Schmidgall climbed the ladder to success and hit the jackpot as a red-shirt junior last season when he was named Most Improved Offensive Player on the Tech team. His inspired performance helped the Jackets rank in the Top 20 nationally in scoring offense, total offense and passing.

Schmidgall will be in action Saturday morning when Tech stages its annual Springfest at Rose Bowl Field at 10:30 a.m. Fans will have an opportunity to watch the Jackets go through a scrimmage session.

Schmidgall actually is an old baseball warrior (a first baseman) from Clearwater, Fla., who has a simple explanation for why he’s where he is these days. “I just got better every year in football and worse in baseball,” he said.

He and Godsey grew up about 30 minutes from each other. Godsey is from Tampa. Their high school baseball teams once squared off in a game. They did not, however, know each other well until they arrived at Tech.

Schmidgall applied for enrollment at Tech simply because he wanted “to study civil engineering at one of the best engineering schools in the country.” It was an after-thought when he accepted an offer from Tech football coaches to join the team as a walk-on.

“I was a 240-pound offensive tackle in high school,” Schmidgall said. “I think the reason I was not recruited by major colleges is because I was too small for the position. The biggest reason I have shown improvement at Tech is because I am so much bigger and stronger. I weigh 285 now.

“There are other reasons for my improvement. I have a better knowledge of the game. My techniques are better. Experience is the key to it all.”

Despite the loss of two terrific offensive linemen, All-America Chris Brown and Brent Key, Schmidgall believes Tech again will have a strong front. “The loss of those guys leaves us with big shoes to fill,” Schmidgall said. “Two guys in particular who have played well are Jason Kemble (a red-shirt senior) and Hugh Reilly (a red-shirt sophomore).”

One thing Schmidgall knows for sure is that the Tech quarterback position will be in good hands. “Everyone on our team had confidence last year that George could move in and do a good job,” he said. “They knew we could win with him. But George surprised us. I think he exceeded our expectations with such an outstanding year.”

Schmidgall says it never bothers him that offensive linemen are overlooked when all the publicity goes to other players.

“When things do not go well, the offensive line gets a lot of the blame,” he said. “But we rarely get credit. As a group, however, we know that we are a large part of every win, even though the media might not recognize that. We know the offensive line has to play well for any team to win.”

Schmidgall says the Tech team goal for 2001 is the same as always – to win the Atlantic Coast Conference championship. “My individual goal is to make All-ACC,” he said.

Meanwhile, he and Godsey are taking a little time out these days for another of their favorite things – video games.

“We enjoy them a lot,” Schmidgall says. “Our favorite is Madden. George probably beats me more than I beat him. But lately I have held my own.”

Soon, Godsey and Schmidgall will be teaming up for real games again – staring in the eyes of those enemy defenders across the line of scrimmage.

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