June 4, 2009

MIAC Profiles of Excellence: Jeff Schnobrich, Saint John's University

Jeff Schnobrich '09, McCarthy Center participant, featured in College Sporting News.

by Rich Mies, CSN Mapping the MIAC Columnist

There are all kinds of family traditions, ranging from how we worship to whether we serve in the military to how we celebrate the holidays. For many, like Jeff Schnobrich, the choice of college is influenced by family tradition, too. There is a long line of men in Jeff’s family who attended Saint John’s University, and Jeff has continued this tradition. In doing so, he has been a key part of the SJU football team as well as having many off-field activities and accomplishments. In addition, he has become a semifinalist for the Draddy Award, also known as the “Academic Heisman.”

“My dad, grandpa, several uncles and cousins have all attended Saint John’s,” Jeff said.”My brother did, too, for a year. One of my cousins who went here is Matt Schnobrich, who won a bronze medal in rowing at the Beijing Olympics this summer.”

Because of his family connection, Jeff was familiar with SJU, so when the time came to choose a college, his choice did not surprise anyone. “I didn’t even apply at any other school,” he said. “I pretty much knew for a while that I wanted to be a Johnnie.”

floated leftWhile at Saint John’s, Jeff has excelled in the classroom, maintaining a 3.90 GPA. He has been involved in various activities in the political science department, including an internship this summer in Washington, D.C. Jeff also has participated in an overseas study program in Guatemala and several related programs. As a result, the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (NFF) has named him as one of 164 semifinalists for the 2008 Draddy Trophy. He also is a candidate for the NFF 2008 National Scholar-Athlete Awards.

“Jeff is blessed with many fine qualities,” stated SJU coach John Gagliardi. “He is almost a straight A student, an excellent running back, and all around fine young man in every way.”

Jeff grew up in New Ulm, a city of 14,000 about 100 miles southwest of the Twin Cities. He has two older brothers. “Andy, the oldest, has Down’s syndrome,” said Jeff. “He works back home in New Ulm. Corey went to Saint John’s for a year before transferring to Iowa State, where he earned a degree in architecture. He works in Chicago now.”

He attended New Ulm Cathedral High, where he played football, hockey and baseball. On the ice, Cathedral fielded a cooperative team with New Ulm’s public high school. Jeff played forward, seeing time at both wings and center, as the team needed. He skated on the third line as a sophomore and moved up to the first line for his junior and senior years. Jeff was named to the all-conference team as a senior, as well as the MVP of the New Ulm team. He also won the Hobey Baker Character Award. New Ulm lost in the quarterfinals of Section play in Jeff’s sophomore year and in the semifinals each of the next two seasons.

On the diamond, Jeff was a three-year starter. “My sophomore year, I played second base, third or center field,” he recalled. “I started in center the last two years.” He was named to the all-conference team his junior and senior years after being honorable mention as a sophomore. Jeff also earned All-Section honors as a junior and as a senior, and was named to the all-area team by the New Ulm Journal.

The Greyhounds are among the better high school programs in the state. “My sophomore year, we lost to Sleepy Eye-St, Mary’s in the Section final,” said Jeff. “We lost to them in the playoffs in my junior year, too. We beat them the next year and went on to win the State Class 2A championship.”

Jeff was the starting running back for Cathedral his junior and senior years. As a junior, he had a breakout season, eclipsing the school single-season rushing record with more than 1,100 yards, leading the Greyhounds to a 9-3 record. Jeff was named to the all-conference team and the Journalnamed him to its all-area team as the Greyhounds won their Section but lost to Medford in the opening round of the State.

In his senior year, Jeff topped his own rushing record, rushing for 1,390 yards. He also broke school records for single game yardage (302), single season all-purpose yards (2,050), single season touchdowns (19), career rushing yards (2,487) and career all-purpose yards (3,487). He was named offensive player of the year for the conference as well as all-conference. Jeff was also all-state honorable mention and was the Journal’s area offensive player of the year. “We made it to the Section championship game, but lost to Mankato Loyola,” said Jeff.

Jeff was named Cathedral’s outstanding senior male athlete his senior year.

He was active in drama throughout high school, playing roles in AnnieLittle Women, and Fiddler on the Roof before landing the lead role in Music Man his senior year. He also competed on the Speech Team for two years. Jeff also sang in the choir. He was named an AAA award winner for Subsection 7. The AAA award recognizes excellence in athletics, academics and the arts.

The summer before Jeff’s senior year, he and a group of friends organized a community theater group. “There were 10 of us who started our own theatre group,” he said. “That summer, we put on Godspell. The organization we started still is in existence.”

Jeff was a member of the National Honor Society and was commended for the National Merit Scholarship program. The Mankato Free Press named him to its All-Area Team for Academic Excellence. He was valedictorian of his graduating class.

He was a member of the Knowledge Bowl team for four years. “My senior year, we made it to State, where we took 13th,” he said. “We had to compete in the larger schools division, and were one of the smallest schools in that division.”

Jeff was a member of the student government for four years, and was Council President his senior year. He was chosen to represent his school at Boys’ State before his senior year.

As a senior, Jeff was the recipient of two prestigious awards. The New Ulm Rotary Club gave him its annual Service Above Self award, and he was named the winner of the Lumen Christi Award. “That goes to the senior who best exemplifies the principles the school stands for,” he explained.

While many of his peers agonized with trying to decide where to attend college, Jeff’s decision was a quick and painless one. He considered only one school, Saint John’s, knowing well from familial experiences what to expect of SJU as well as the benefits of a Saint John’s education.

During his time at Saint John’s, Jeff has been part of the Johnnies’ football team all four years. He did not see action as a freshman, but he saw action in seven games his sophomore year. He carried the ball 10 times for 29 yards and hauled in three passes for 24 yards as the Johnnies tied for first place in the MIAC with Bethel and advanced to the NCAA Division III playoffs. They beat Central (IA) 21-13 and Whitworth (21-3) to advance to the quarterfinals, where they lost to UW-Whitewater, 17-14, finishing their season 11-2.

floated rightLast fall, Jeff was the Johnnies’ third leading rusher, garnering 206 yards in 11 games. He also caught 16 passes for 139 yards and scored six touchdowns. Saint John’s finished second in the MIAC but earned an at-large berth in the NCAA playoffs. In the opening round, they beat Redlands (CA) 41-13 before losing to Central, 37-7, ending the year 10-2.

This fall, the Jays are off to a 3-2 start and are 1-2 in league action. Jeff leads the team in rushing with 202 yards and is the Johnnies’ second leading receiver with 23 catches for 246 yards. He ranks ninth among receivers in the MIAC.

Jeff decided to try his hand at track his freshman year. “”I thought it would be fun to try something new and different,” he explained. He ran various sprints and sprint relays for the Johnnies during the indoor and outdoor seasons his freshman and sophomore years. He is contemplating returning to the cinder this winter and spring.

He did not compete in track last year as he was participating in a study abroad program in Guatemala. “I initially became interested in studying abroad before coming to SJU after hearing about my cousin Matt’s semester in Spain,” Jeff stated. “After coming to SJU, I heard other great endorsements for studying abroad and realized that it would be easy to ‘fit in’ academically, as it is for most students. I knew that I wanted to study abroad in a country where I could be immersed in and learn another language. Having taken some Spanish classes, my choices were then narrowed to Spain and Guatemala. Chile, the other Spanish language program offered through CSB|SJU, is in the fall, and I was not going to miss a season of football. I decided to go to Guatemala both for the set-up of the program, which included lots of one-on-one instruction and other interesting classes, and because I thought it would be a more unique experience.”

He spent the semester in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. “It was an incredibly eye-opening experience,” related Jeff. “We were completely immersed in the local culture. This included staying with a host family the entire time I was there, as well as taking one-on-one Spanish classes for four hours a day for the majority of the program. Another academic highlight was a Mayan Cosmovision class, team-taught by a Mayan priest and a cultural anthropologist. Among the highlights of the semester were climbing numerous volcanoes. We also learned about Guatemala’s history and culture, especially its Mayan history and culture.”

There were numerous volunteer opportunities as well. Jeff participated in one that helped with marketing for Kuchub’al, a cooperative of small women producers. He also got involved in a hydroelectric project for Finca La Florida, a small group of communal farmers.

Jeff sports a 3.90 GPA, majoring in Political Science with minors in Spanish and Economics. He has made the Dean’s List five (of six) semesters and is a Regents’/Trustees’ scholar as well as a recipient of a Lynn Gresser Political Science scholarship.

At Saint John’s, Jeff has been involved in the Eugene J. McCarthy Center for Public Policy and Civic Engagement. The Center is a nonpartisan learning and outreach center that emulates the principles the late Senator espoused. It fosters enhanced civic engagement and dialog about public policy. The Center hosts a series of lectures in the area of public policy and public affairs on campus and sponsors a Washington (D.C.) study program that enables interested students to intern in a government, political, or non-profit office while earning academic credit.

“I became interested in doing the internship through some political science professors, and I knew I needed some work experience related to my field of study,” he said. “I was one of 12 CSB-SJU students in the program who spent the summer in Washington. Not only did we live together and discuss our internships as a group, but we also had seminars, organized by our professors, with alumni and professionals in various fields in DC. The professors helped with application to various sites and helped us prepare for a summer as working professionals in D.C.”

Jeff spent the summer of 2008 working as an intern for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. “I applied to the Transportation Committee because of my interest in transportation issues,” he said. “My duties and responsibilities varied: wherever I was needed, I would help. This would often include assisting in the preparation and conducting of committee hearings and meetings. I also did administrative work in the office, and I did research as needed for committee staffers. I was able to sit in on Congressional briefings and staff meetings, and I was also able to attend presentations by important D.C. figures.”

Currently, Jeff works as an office assistant in the Political Science department. One of his main responsibilities is promoting and organizing the Summer Study Program.

After graduation, Jeff is strongly considering Grad School. “I may delay that and get involved in something public policy related,” he said. He is unsure at this point if he will return to DC or get involved in something at the local or regional level.

Because of his familiarity with the school, Jeff arrived at Saint John’s with anticipations about the education SJU would provide him. His experiences not only equaled those expectations but greatly exceeded them. “I’ve gotten what I consider to be a great education, not only in the classroom, but beyond,” he stated. “It stretched from the rain forests of Guatemala to the halls of DC. At the same time, I was still able to play football and run track. It has been a great place to be.”

[The photos are used courtesy of the Saint John’s University Sports Information Office.]

The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) is widely respected as one of the premier conferences in nearly every sport competed in Division III. Year after year, the MIAC produces teams and individual student-athletes who excel in their given sport. At the same time, the MIAC schools maintain a reputation of commitment to academic excellence. This article is one in a series of spotlights on some of the young men and women who represent the league’s commitment to excellence, both in the classroom and athletics during the 2008-09 academic year.

This feature will be included in the “Profiles of Excellence 2008-2009″ book which will be available for order at RDM Publishing. It will feature profiles of student-athletes from the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, written by CSN’s “Mapping the MIAC” columnist Rich Mies.