April 15, 2024

John Michael Schmitz aiming to please NFL scouts at Senior Bowl

Minnesota Golden Gophers Football

Minnesota offensive lineman John Michael Schmitz (74) prepares to snap the ball during Senior Bowl practice Wednesday February 1, 2023 at Whitney Hancock Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

MOBILE, Ala. — He made himself a household name in the Big Ten over the past two seasons anchoring Minnesota’s offensive line.

John Michael Schmitz is an immovable object when it comes to blocking, who’s never been afraid to get his knees dirty and handle the blue collar work in the trenches. The Illinois native has 35 career starts under his belt, including 25-straight regular season games over the past two years.

Which is why he’s confident that type of experience and production will take him far at the next level. Schmitz been enjoying practice with the best of the best throughout the week leading up to the Senior Bowl game Saturday. He’s the only Golden Gopher at the event, so he’s trying to represent the program with class and stellar play.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity to be at the Senior Bowl,” Schmitz said. “I want to thank Jim Nagy for the invite, and it’s a blessing to compete everyday, and I’m grateful for this game.”

The former three-star prospect is all about physicality and mauling defensive linemen at the point of attack. So it’s no surprise why Schmitz was one of three finalists for the Rimington Award, and earned first-team, AP All-American honors in 2022. Not to mention he’s a two-time, All-Big Ten performer.

Schmitz is a big reason why Minnesota finished second in the league and 16th in the FBS in rushing yards per game last season. He was a natural at opening gaping holes for Mohamed Ibrahim to run through. Schmitz weighed in at 306 pounds earlier this week and that’s a solid size for his six-foot-three frame.

No doubt the big fella has imposed his will on defenders at the Collegiate level, but in the NFL everyone is an animal. Still, Schmitz remains confident in what he brings to the table.

“My leadership, my toughness, the way I finish plays, and the way I communicate,” he said. “The way I push people to be better.”

Being an efficient blocker in the NFL means he’ll have to be consistent with his hand placement and keep a low center of gravity. The Big Ten is physical on the lines, and Schmitz feels that has prepared him for this moment. Regardless, there are a few areas he wants to improve on.

“I wanted to show the scouts what I’ve been working on and it’s definitely my pass protection, getting out in space,” the 23-year old said. “I’m looking to continue to improve, learn from these practices and develop my skills.”

He was part of the Golden Gophers’ 2017 recruiting class, which has been Coach P.J. Fleck’s entire tenure. Fleck was a vital part in Schmitz’s development, so he can’t thank him enough for his guidance on and off the field, and enjoyed his time at Minnesota. At the end of the day it’s still row the boat in Schmitz’s mind.

“He (Fleck) created a culture there like nowhere else, it’s a never give up mantra, so you’re constantly chasing your best on a daily basis, the standard always rises and I love Coach Fleck, he’s the best.”