'Oh my God, he's going in!': Tracing Kyler Schott's ascension to instant Hawkeye lore
IOWA CITY, Ia. — For three-plus seasons, Jared Collum watched wide-eyed as his punishing pupil wrecked opponents who should’ve waved the white flag at kickoff. A behemoth like Kyler Schott doesn’t roll through North Linn very often.
“He was so violent,” says Collum, who’s led Lynx football since 2007.
Schott’s final game in maroon came Oct. 21, 2016 — and for nearly three years, that violence went incognito as he transitioned into the collegiate ranks. Teammates, coaches and the few privy to viewing Iowa football practices may have seen flashes. But not the masses. Schott remained a Hawkeye unknown, trying to survive as a walk-on offensive lineman.
The 69,250 in Kinnick Stadium, and thousands more across the country, saw what Collum has witnessed countless times. Relentlessness. Domination. Powerful hands that send linebackers flying — Schott displayed it all in his first meaningful collegiate action.
“We couldn’t stop smiling,” said Collum, who watched No. 19 Iowa’s 38-14 win over Miami (Ohio) with a few of his North Linn assistants. “We’re super excited and super proud of him because we know how much work he’s put into this thing. It just goes to show that if you stick your nose to the grindstone, good things will pay off in the long run.”
Almost overnight, Schott has transformed into a Hawkeye legend. His gnarly beard and rock-star hair make for a can’t-miss profile. It only seems fitting that an undersized, under-recruited offensive lineman carries such a menacing look. That is until Schott breaks out his full-fledged smile, which he did constantly throughout Tuesday's media debut.
With starting tackle Alaric Jackson sidelined for at least two more weeks, Schott is here to stay for now. Iowa’s subsequent up-front shuffling has the North Linn alum primed for his first career start Saturday against Rutgers. He’ll return to his right guard spot, where he pulverized numerous RedHawks.
“Being able to finally say, ‘I can do this’ — playing against other people,” Schott said, “you finally realize what you're made of.”
That makeup reveals why Schott is standing for this opportunity.
Anyone who’s lived the little-brother life knows things can get rambunctious in a hurry. Especially when the age gap is wide.
Kyler is the youngest of three brothers. At four years younger than middle child Brendan and eight behind the eldest, Jordan, he learned to hold his own at an early age.
“Having those older brothers to mentor him and to follow along with was definitely beneficial,” says David Schott, Kyler’s father. “From the time he was a youngster in the yard — taking baseballs in the face from his older brothers — he was right there with them. It just seemed like as the younger sibling, he probably had to learn a little bit quicker than the others did. He kept that drive all along.”
Jordan and Brendan blazed a decorated North Linn trail for Kyler to follow. They were two-sport athletes throughout high school, racking up a combined 241 wrestling wins and numerous football accomplishments. Brendan competed in both sports at Wartburg College as well.
Organically, Jordan and Brendan were prepping Kyler for the road ahead.
“I couldn’t buy new furniture until they all left for school,” says Dawn Schott, Kyler’s mother. “My living room was a wrestling mat most of the time.”
Inside North Linn — the school sits in the unincorporated community of Troy Mills, next to Kyler’s hometown of Coggon — family dominance of this magnitude doesn’t go overlooked.
The Schott legacy didn’t overwhelm Kyler once he reached high school. He embraced those expectations head-on.
Plenty of collisions followed.
If anything, pull up Kyler's high school film for the sheer amazement. But don’t do it if you’re around young children. The North Linn tape should come with an explicit content warning.
“It was a man against boys at that level of football,” Collum said. “That’s for sure.”
After becoming a varsity starter during his freshman season, Kyler fully morphed into a two-way bulldozer as a sophomore. Iowa’s Class A level doesn’t feature many 300-pound wrecking balls, so Kyler was a rare breed.
His prowess became so pronounced that Collum had to stand Kyler up in the second level to avoid continuous cut-blocking. He still inflicted plenty of damage as a stand-up nose tackle, regularly chasing down faster players and tossing them aside.
The bulk of Schott’s senior Hudl clips comes from North Linn’s Week 4 game against Lisbon, which featured multiple track stars and future Division I athletes. Hudl’s identifier arrows and circles indicating who to watch are merely a formality.
No. 64 smashes Lions left and right.
“That didn’t want any part of him,” Collum said with a laugh. “That Lisbon game, the kid that he kept burying was Jack Butteris — who went on to run track at UNI. They moved him into a Mike linebacker-type that game. We looked out there, and this guy probably weighed (140 pounds).
“And I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, Schott is going to destroy this kid all night long.’ They never got out of it, and Schott just kept burying him.”
Kyler became such a versatile weapon that, at times, Collum shifted him between the two tackle and guard positions at each snap. Wherever the run play was going, Schott was out leading the way. The Lynx rumbled for nearly seven yards per carry in Schott’s senior season.
The performances were unfathomable, yet the collegiate interest was minimal. With Schott standing 6-foot-2 on good day — well short of a prototypical lineman mold — Division I scholarships were nonexistent. Schott said this week that Iowa Central Community College offered some money, but nothing close to a full ride. He talked to Upper Iowa once, and “they never talked to me again.”
Collum added some more depth to Schott’s recruitment, recalling that Division II Bemidji State was extremely interested, as were Iowa’s Division III schools. Still, Schott wanted a shot up top.
Reese Morgan was happy to oblige. Iowa’s former defensive line coach, known for finding hidden gems among the state’s high school ranks, sniffed out Schott and offered a preferred walk-on spot. The North Linn standout had dealt with knee issues late in high school. There was zero risk in this endeavor.
“He certainly did a lot of good things (in high school),” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday. “Sometimes, you just have to believe what you see, Reese kind of has a pulse on things, and ID'd Kyler as one of the guys we should look at.”
The walk-on life carries little glamour. Until this season, Schott's story featured few bright spots. A redshirt year in 2017, followed by one appearance in 2018, hardly mirrored those punishing prep days.
Not all walk-ons surface to the top. Some settle for enjoying the ride in anonymity. But Collum perked up when talking to Iowa offensive line coach Tim Polasek at a clinic this past spring. Clearly, there was opportunity brewing.
“Polasek told me, ‘Kyler’s got a shot to get some serious minutes here. He’s just been working his tail off,’” Collum recalled. “I was like, ‘Oh, man, that’s awesome. For real?’ And Tim was like, ‘Oh, yeah.’
“So we kind of knew coming in through the summer that he was in the mix.”
“In the mix” turned into “next man in” on the season’s second series. Dawn and David both watched from the Kinnick stands as their youngest son cashed in years of perseverance and dedication.
Although it seemed far-fetched at times, both said they knew Kyler would get an opportunity like this at some point during his Hawkeye days. Call it unwavering parental support or behind-the-scenes belief if you want. It’s clear the Schott family is rooted in traditional Iowa grit.
“We were like, ‘Oh my God, he’s going in!’” said David, the joy evident in his voice. “We were just tickled to have him play as well as he was playing. In my mind, I was thinking, ‘Show ‘em what you got.’ There was no doubt in my mind that he could hang in there.”
The media requested Schott after the Miami win, but he inadvertently left before the sports information staff could corral him. No worries.
Schott got his chance to shine Tuesday.
Reporters swarmed Iowa’s newest folk hero, peppering the redshirt sophomore with questions about his path to Hawkeye lore. For someone not accustomed to this publicity, such attention could be daunting.
Schott calmly answered every inquiry.
“Being able to play in a game on Saturday is what you live for,” Schott said. “It was awesome.”
Ascension to the spotlight reveals all kinds of sidebars — and Schott’s centered on his various nicknames. “Shooter” emerged from Polasek’s inability to pronounce his name correctly upon arriving in the program. “Jack Black” comes via Schott’s grungy look.
Ask around, and you’ll get various opinions on Schott’s grooming upkeep. His parents have learned to love the hair. Defensive lineman Dayvion Nixon has a differing opinion.
"It's nasty,” Nixon said with a wide smile. “His hair is nasty. It gets in my mouth sometimes when we're going against each other. I don't like it. I feel like he should cut his hair just a little bit."
Don’t count on it. Why change what’s been working on this journey? Schott remains the same guy Collum, Polasek, his parents, brothers and others knew could handle this role.
It’s just now, everyone else sees it too.
Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.