Schmitt will play despite injuries
Just about every football fan in the area is familiar with this scenario: A local football team faces a quarterback this weekend who rarely practices for a full week due to injuries but plays every week as if he is 100 percent.
For the Steelers and their fans, the above scenario is a fairly accurate description of the challenge they face Sunday when Steve McNair brings his various ailments to Heinz Field. That same predicament faces Belle Vernon Area and their fans Friday night when Derry Area quarterback Dewey Schmitt brings his turf toe and dislocated finger to James Weir Stadium. Schmitt suffered both injuries during Derry’s week two game against Uniontown Area.
“He dislocated his finger that night of the Uniontown game,” recalled Derry coach Jim Paul. “He looked at his finger and he said to the doctor, ‘Doctor, don’t touch it. Just tape it.’ ”
Then came Week 3 at Mount Pleasant Area. With his turf toe flaring up, Schmitt rushed for 78 yards and completed 7 of 13 passes for 110 yards. But it was what happened after the loss to Mt. Pleasant that impressed his coach the most.
“He’s sitting on the trainer’s table, and that foot’s about the size of a barrel,” said Paul. “You can see the tears in his eyes, and I’m thinking to myself ‘Boy, you are one tough sucker.’ ”
That’s exactly what Paul likes to see from the quarterback in his veer offense. The run-oriented offense requires a quarterback who sees passing as his third option. More often than not, a veer quarterback is either handing the ball off or taking it himself on the option. Either way, the quarterback takes his share of physical punishment.
“The last couple teams we played with the option, I was really having a good day,” Schmitt said. “So, the next week they know. They could care less about the dive back. All they want to do is hit me as hard as they can. That’s added to it because I was dinged up already. That’s where the mental toughness comes in.”
The common misconception is that Schmitt and other veer quarterbacks have an easier mental job since the offense relies on pounding the ball. In fact, Schmitt often has the responsibility of deciding what play Derry will run as he walks to the line of scrimmage. In that short time, he has to scan the defensive alignment to decide where they are most vulnerable.
“You have to decide whether you’re going to give the ball off, pull the ball out and keep it, or pull the ball out and pitch it all within the matter of a second or second and a quarter,” said Paul, drawing a comparison to passing quarterbacks. “Most of the time, even if you’re making a three-step drop, you have (three seconds) to make the decision and throw the ball. You don’t have that kind of time running the veer. He’s outstanding at running it and throwing it.”
It also requires a player with a feel for the game. For Schmitt, the game runs in the family. All three of his brothers (Mike, Brad, and Kyle) played football at Derry. Kyle is the starting center at the University of Maryland.
Dewey is exploring his opportunities as a preferred walk-on long snapper at Maryland. That’s right; the quarterback is also the long-snapper at Derry. His play, along with his work in the classroom (3.75 GPA, 1190 SAT score) has Yale, Penn, Bucknell, and Middlebury (Vt.) interested as well.
“I’m more comfortable at quarterback,” said Schmitt, who hopes to become an engineer like his father, “But all they’re really talking about is being an athlete, so it doesn’t really matter. I just want to play.”
Paul won’t mince words with any college coach who asks about Schmitt.
“Whoever gets him, boy, are they going to get one whale of a ballplayer and one whale of a boost for their program just because of the way he is.”