The Camp Randall 100 honors a prestigious group of 100 people who shaped the first century of Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin Athletics will reveal a new honoree every day from May 24 until the Badgers’ 2017 opening game on Sept. 1 against Utah State.
BY MIKE LUCAS | UWBadgers.com Senior Writer
Joe Schobert had his bags packed for Grand Forks. Since he couldn’t land an FBS scholarship, despite a strong sales pitch from his Waukesha West High School coach Steve Rux, Schobert was prepared to enroll at the University of North Dakota, an FCS program. At the last minute, Bret Bielema came through with a “Not so fast, my friend” and an offer that Schobert couldn’t refuse. The offer was to stay close to home as a preferred walk-on at Wisconsin. It was a no-brainer for Schobert, who respected the school’s history and fairness with non-scholarship players.
During a prep all-star game that summer, Schobert, who was athletic enough to dunk a football over the crossbar of the goal post, had shown his versatility as a running back, safety and kick returner. Lettering on special teams as a true freshman at UW, he eventually found a home at linebacker. Schobert blossomed as a starter during his junior season and personally shut down Auburn in overtime of the Outback Bowl with tackles on three straight plays. In 2015, Schobert was the Big Ten Linebacker of the Year, a first-team All-American and the Jack Lambert Award winner. The Cleveland Browns took him in the fourth round of the NFL draft, the 99th player selected overall.
Camp Randall Stadium inspired Joe Schobert before he ever played there. Or even saw a game there. He always wondered from afar — well, not that far, only 66 miles away in Waukesha — what it would be like. Call it a state of mind. He was a state kid who wanted to play for the state school.
And playing at the historic venue in Madison was one of the perks.
“It was inspiring for a young kid like me,” said Schobert, 17, then a junior at Waukesha West.
“We were getting ready to play Kenosha Bradford and Melvin Gordon,” he said of a semifinal matchup with the high-scoring Red Devils. “I was thinking if we beat them, we’d be able to play in that stadium the next week. That would be really cool. And it happened.”
Waukesha West punched its ticket to Madison and the state final by shutting down the Bradford offense in a 30-15 win. Gordon had a 25-yard touchdown run late in the first half. But it was Schobert who sealed the verdict with a 96-yard TD scamper in the fourth quarter.
He was just warming up, too. The best was yet to come.
Schobert accounted for 329 of Waukesha West’s 436 total yards in a 45-26 rout of Stevens Point in the 2010 state title game at Camp Randall. By rushing 38 times for 296 yards, he broke the WIAA Division 1 single-game mark held by Racine Park’s John Clay, who had 19 carries for 259 yards in 2005.
“My offensive line deserves a lot of credit blocking for my skinny butt running through the holes,” said Schobert. “We called the same play a bunch of times in a row — a 28 or 29 toss and counter off it — and we were able to gash them all day. The other team never adjusted to it.”
Unstoppable to unblockable? You could make that case on the Schobert timeline. Bridging five years and two of his most unforgettable Camp Randall experiences, he evolved from that “unstoppable” halfback against Stevens Point to that “unblockable” outside linebacker against Iowa.
“I don’t know if I felt unblockable, but, for me, personally, especially in the second half, I felt like I was in a zone. I definitely felt good and I always felt I had a chance to get off the tight ends and do what I wanted. I didn’t think they could block us at all. It was a confidence thing.”
– Joe Schobert
But the reality for Schobert is that the Badgers lost his senior year to the Hawkeyes even though he produced one of the more dominant individual defensive showings in stadium history. In the 2015 Big Ten opener, he had three sacks, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and five quarterback hurries.
Yet it still wasn’t enough. Iowa capitalized on four turnovers and escaped with a 10-6 victory, snapping Wisconsin’s 10-game winning streak at Camp Randall.
“It’s disappointing when you don’t win, but you learn from it,” Schobert said. “It’s a team game and offense and defense works together. If we would have gotten one more stop and the offense would have gotten one more drive and scored, it would have turned out totally different.”
As it was, Schobert did everything within his power to influence the outcome against the Hawkeyes. Consider this sequence in the fourth quarter: Schobert sacked quarterback C.J. Beathard — forcing a fumble. UW nose tackle Arthur Goldberg flopped on the ball …
“But it popped between his legs and I dove in and grabbed it,” Schobert recalled. “The refs were still looking in the pile to see who had the ball. I said, ‘Hey, it’s over here. I’ve got it.’ Everyone was fighting over nothing. That was definitely an amusing moment.”
Excuse the Hawkeyes for not laughing while Schobert was humbling them.
“I don’t know if I felt unblockable,” he conceded. “But, for me, personally, especially in the second half, I felt like I was in a zone. I definitely felt good and I always felt I had a chance to get off the tight ends and do what I wanted. I didn’t think they could block us at all. It was a confidence thing.”
Schobert credited the week of film study in preparing for Iowa’s tendencies.
“We knew what they were doing on every play and we knew how to counter it,” he said. “We had a lot of calls for me and Vince (Biegel). We had a lot of freedom on the edge to keep their tight ends guessing on how to block us and that allowed us to play really fast and make plays in the backfield.”
Iowa’s tight ends, he thought, got a little jumpy.
“Once we got into their heads,” he said, “they’d glance at you, look at you pre-snap.”
And it was that look of “here they come again,” said Schobert. “It was a great feeling.”
“I remember the Nebraska game from my junior year when Melvin ran for 408 yards and it started to snow at the end of the game … (And I said to him) ‘Can’t you take a little bit longer to score so we can catch our breath on the sidelines, Melvin?'”
– Joe Schobert
Throughout his career, he harbored such feelings for Camp Randall.
“I remember the Nebraska game from my junior year when Melvin ran for 408 yards and it started to snow at the end of the game,” said Schobert, who also remembered the Cornhuskers getting off to a 17-3 lead after their first four possessions.
“We went out and got a stop and then our offense scored a touchdown and from there it really took over, the momentum clearly shifted in our favor and we held it the rest of the way,” Schobert said. “I’m just glad it never happened to us. I would not have liked to have been on that (Nebraska) defense that day.”
At one point, the Badgers were scoring so quickly that Schobert went up to Gordon and said, “Can’t you take a little bit longer to score so we can catch our breath on the sidelines, Melvin?’”
Laughing, Schobert said, “It was awesome to watch. What a great memory.”