Heading into fifth grade at St. John Fisher (SJF) Elementary School, Jake Schied already had experience playing football after punting for the Falcons during the previous season.
But preparing for his second year on the team, Schied was approached by Tim Bush, SJF junior varsity coach. Maybe Jake wanted to try something new?
“Coach Bush saw the Jake Olson story on TV, the blind long snapper at USC,” Schied said. “He saw it, came over to the house and said I should come out for the team and long snap. I was shocked. I thought I could try it out and see what happened.”
Schied cannot see after having retinoblastoma. One eye was removed in April 2008 and the other in May 2014.
However, as Schied has demonstrated in overcoming every medical issue that’s been thrown at him, he was more than up for the challenge of long snapping.
Now 13 and heading into eighth grade at SJF, Schied just keeps working on being a skilled long snapper.
“It took a little while to get used to it, but I liked it. I’ve loved it ever since,” Schied said. “You have to get used to the hand motions, where to put your hands, all that stuff. I’ve tried out of a bunch of different motions. You find that groove.”
In the long-snapping role, Schied is part of the special teams for field goals and point-after attempts.
He runs to the line of scrimmage with help from a teammate, fellow eighth-grader Joe Chirillo, who helps him get in position. Schied then waits for the signal from the holder to make the snap.
Chirillo has been impressed with his friend’s ability to consistently snap a quick spiral to the holder.
“The way he snaps, it’s always perfect,” Chirillo said. “I don’t think he’s ever missed one in a game. I can’t remember one. It’s really brave of him and really cool to see. I couldn’t imagine doing that. It’s awesome.”
After two years of handling long-snapping duties on the JV team in fifth and sixth grade, Schied made the jump up to the varsity last season in seventh grade.
Schied’s not going to lie about feeling some nerves.
“Oh yea, there’s some pressure,” Schied said with a laugh. “You’re scared that it might be a little high or to the side left or right. You’re nervous, but I know I can do it. You try and stay calm. I stay with the same things I did in fifth and sixth grade.”
According to SJF Coach Mark Fennell, Schied wasn’t handed the key role on special teams; he earned it.
Schied attends every practice and runs with the team. Then, Jake works with his dad, Chris, for the rest of the practice perfecting his dart of a long snap.
“Jake being out here is no different than any other kids,” Fennell said. “He’s not out here as a charity case. He’s the best long snapper we’ve got.
“A lot of kids at this age, even high school, you see them float a ball back. He gets a good spin on it with good speed. He’s a good kid and cheers on his teammates, and we’re rooting him on.”
SJF will open the season on Aug. 29 against St. Christina at St. Rita High School.
According to Chirillo, after an injury-plagued 2018 season, a healthy Falcons roster will be key.
“As a team, I expect us to do really well,” Chirillo said. “When we were in sixth grade, we had pretty much the same team and went 9-0. I expect us to do well again this year. We’re excited.”
Schied can’t wait to get things going.
“We’re all bigger and stronger,” Schied said. “We’ve learned as a group, so we need to learn the plays the right way, stay positive and stay healthy.”