When Austin Schultz turned 4 years old, his mother took him to a Toys R Us in Germany. She told him to pick out any toy he wanted.
“I grabbed the biggest football,” Schultz said. “That’s what I wanted.”
Now, the Pine Creek Eagle will be playing football at the college level and doing it at a school that’s never done it before.
Schultz signed a national letter of intent on Wednesday to play at Missouri Baptist, which will jump into the football fray in the fall as an NAIA school.
Schultz recently went to a University of Illinois camp. As he finished running a 40-yard dash inaugural MBU coach Jason Burianek walked up and stuck out a hand.
Some might recognize Burianek’s name. He played wide receiver at Colorado under Rick Neuheisel and Gary Barnett.
Schultz shook Burianek’s hand and they started talking.
“I was very impressed with the way he carried himself,” Schultz said.
Schultz, who paid for his plane ticket to the camp by working as a landscaper, already wanted to be back in the Illinois area since he’d lived there and attended Wesclin High School before moving to Colorado his junior year. He also drew interest from Lindenwood (Mo.), but opted for Missouri Baptist because of the financial offer and the feel of the school and its 30-minute proximity to Wesclin.
The idea of playing at a start-up program hasn’t worried Schultz. Just the opposite in fact.
“I think it’s going to be a really valuable learning experience,” Schultz said. “We’re going to be a very young team, 18, 19, maybe a couple 20-year-olds, that’s it. We’ll be playing against grown men and that will be a learning experience and growing pains, but we’re going to get better.”
In their first season, the Spartans will face three I-AA (Football Championship Series) teams, another prospect that interested Schultz.
“I think that’s a great opportunity not just for me but for the school itself,” he said. “They’re getting a football program started and they’re really behind the program. So much so, that they’re saying go ahead and play these I-AA schools.”
And Schultz doesn’t think he and his teammates will be a pushover despite the youth.
“I think it’s going to be a little different,” Schultz said. “I think we’re bringing in guys that are very seasoned ballplayers. They have great resumes coming out of high school. I’ve seen a lot of highlight tapes, talked to them on Twitter. I really like the talent we’re bringing in.”