A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to interview Minnesota C John Michael Schmitz during the media breakfast in Mobile, Alabama at the Senior Bowl. I first asked “JMS” about his physical demeanor as a run blocker and if his background as a wrestler had helped him play offensive line in high school and at the college level.
“Yeah, just understand leverage, understand your body position when you’re in the wrestling match,” Yeah, and understanding how hard it was to the wrestle actually, I mean.”
John Michael Schmitz made a habit of taking down defenders on the football field the same way he used to take down opposing wrestlers on the mat, using his impressive strength, power, and leverage to run his opposition off their spot and finish them into the ground for pancake blocks.
After asked him about a former teammate of his at Minnesota that I got to coach at Minnesota State University, Mankato after he transferred from the Golden Gophers, I then asked John Michael Schmitz about what it was like to have all those coaches and scouts surrounding him and the rest of the OL/DL 1-on-1 sessions and if he felt any pressure having so many eyes on him up close.
“I kind of tuned them out,” JMS said. “I knew what I had to do. I had to focus on that rep and what I had to do to win the rep. So, I was just focused on my technique to not force the snap playing center. I mean, there’s always little things that you can get better at. Obviously, footwork is big for us. You have to be quick with your feet, and I’ll just say your hand placement.”
JMS was dominant all week long in practice, showing great anchor in pass protection 1-on-1s as well as mobility to climb to the second level and get out in space. He absolutely annihilated Sacramento State LB Marte Mapu on a screen pass in team practice, getting out in space and proceeded to plant Mapu into the turf.
I then asked John Michael Schmitz what it was like to have HC Mike Tomlin up close watching him in drills and if he parted any knowledge to JMS during practice or during interviews with the Steelers.
“It was great to have him,” JMS said about Tomlin at practice. “Like I was saying, I was locked in on the drills and what we were doing. So, I kind of tuned everything out and got laser focused on all the drills. I think me made a comment at practice. I know I met with the Steelers, but everyone’s same right now. It’s kind of like a speed dating that’s kind of thing going on. So, I mean, it’s great. We got to meet with all the 32 NFL teams. So that’s pretty nice.”
John Michael Schmitz was one of the big winners of the week, showcasing enough athleticism to move in pass protection and play in space while also having the strength to hold his own against power rushers and blow defenders off the football on the ground. Having completed the pre-draft profile on JMS, I see him as the likely #1 center in the draft class. It doesn’t appear that Pittsburgh will address center after Mason Cole had a good first season in Black and Gold, but given JMS’s strength and athleticism, I would expect him to be C/G capable if the Steelers wanted to target him as a solution at LG and can go back to C if they so choose.