Schmidt brothers all played at Division I levelJune 11, 2020
By COREY STOLZENBACH
Talent and success all carried the Schmidt brothers a long way.
Twin brothers Chris and Ben Schmidt, both 2003 Jasper graduates, each have their fingerprints on two of the most successful teams in Jasper history. Younger brother Luke Schmidt did not attain the same success from a team standpoint, but he continued his football career at one of the most prestigious programs in the country.
All three of them played a sport at the NCAA Division I level. Chris played football and baseball at Indiana State University, later choosing to specifically focus on the latter. Ben was also a Sycamore, though the two were not a package deal, and Luke had the chance to “Play like a champion today” while at the University of Notre Dame.
So, what goes into something like that for someone to play at the highest level of collegiate athletics?
“I definitely think one of the main things is playing multiple sports, not being specialized in one or the other — trying to concentrate as you’re growing up, just letting kids be kids and having some free time and not pressing so much when you’re younger to try and concentrate on something,” Chris said. “I think that’s what helps build athleticism and whatnot to allow you to succeed.”
Ben remembers growing up when he joined his older twin brother to play different sports with other kids in the neighborhood during the summer. Luke would also try to join them and keep up.
“I was a couple years younger than them,” Luke said. “They were seniors and I was a freshman. They obviously had a lot of success in baseball, basketball, football and such. So, I tried to tag along with them as much as I could — tried going to workouts with them when I could.”
By the time Luke was a freshman, his two older brothers were two-time state champions.
The first state championship came when they were freshmen in 2000. Chris and Ben both started off as junior varsity players in their first baseball season. They gradually started practicing with the varsity team, and Chris made his varsity debut on May 2, 2000, notching an RBI triple in a 6-2 win against Forest Park. He spent time batting in both the eighth and ninth slot that season.
Wildcats coach Terry Gobert told The Herald, according to a May 3, 2000, story, that Jasper needed speed and athletic ability and the Schmidt brothers provided both of that. Gobert added that Chris and Ben could put pressure on the defense and put the ball in play. Ben made his debut not long afterward and found himself batting fifth in the lineup.
The Herald also reported in its June 26, 2000, edition that the twins were called up to help shore up the defense in the outfield.
“I think we were faster than average,” Ben said. “I think being able just to track down fly balls, that’s a huge attribute for the outfield, and, I think, at the same time, it helped on the base paths as well.”
Jasper won a sectional championship every year in the 1990s. The Wildcats won the final two single-class state championships in 1996 and 1997, as well as the Class 3A crown in 1998. They couldn’t bring back another title to Jasper in 1999. So, it was up to Chris and Ben to make up for it in 2000.
“That was definitely a really special run that those groups went on there,” Ben said. “I don’t know that anything compares to that, but, yeah, watching that growing up, we were at the age of grade school, starting to really get competitive and play a lot of competitive sports then. It’s neat to watch that and have something to strive for.”
The Wildcats were state champions for the fourth time in five seasons when they downed Plymouth, 10-3, in the title game, and Chris caught the final out on a fly ball to right center field.
“The first thing was, ‘Don’t drop it,’” Chris thought as it came to him. “Playing at night like that and those balls go up and it gets above those lights, you lose a little bit of your depth perception. So, it’s not as easy as it sometimes looks, but the main thing was don’t drop it, and I think the biggest next thing was probably release and the celebration after that.”
However, the Wildcats could not make it out of the 2001 sectional. It was the first time since 1989 they ended their season without a baseball sectional championship, with the brothers being sophomores on that squad.
Even though they left their sophomore seasons on the diamond empty handed, the twins found more than enough consolation in the fall.
Jasper entered the 2001 football season on the heels of an undefeated regular season in 2000, only to lose to Vincennes Lincoln in the sectional semifinal. There’d be no undefeated season for the Wildcats after a 14-7 loss Sept. 7 at Heritage Hills.
However, coach Jerry Brewer had accomplished so much — seemingly everything there was to be accomplished — but one thing eluded him prior to 2001 — a state championship. He guided the Wildcats to state in 1976, 1977, 1987 and 1995, with Jasper losing the championship all four times.
For that to change, he’d need a little twin magic on offense. Ben played quarterback and Chris was at wide receiver.
“I think it was a unique relationship,” Chris said. “I’m not going to say he knew where I was going to be, but I think a lot of practice and time spent together helps knowing that he didn’t even need to see if I was going to be open. He could just throw it to a spot that he knew I was going to be at and run at the ball and get it.”
“In general, you’re throwing where the defense isn’t and expecting to where your wide receiver is going to be,” Ben said. “Being on the same page is obviously huge there. Just knowing that he’s not open now, but likely, as he gets by that DB that he’ll be able to create some separation.”
The 2001 Wildcats boasted a blistering defense that notched five shutouts, including three weeks in a row at one point, and no opponent ever scored more than 21 points on them, which gave all the more opportunity for Ben and Chris to do their thing. Or, if they liked, the Wildcats could’ve used Brian Lewis out of the backfield.
Chris thought defenses had a tough time between choosing to try to stop the passing game or stacking the box to stop the run.
“Defenses had to make a mistake, and it didn’t take very long to figure out, whenever we just kind of would run, run, run, figure out what the defense was doing,” he said. “If they decided to put too many people in the box, that’s when we would start our passing game.”
Brewer gave Ben the freedom to make decisions on switching the play or switching directions as he saw fit, depending on how the defense was lined up.
“If they did stack the box to try to stop our running game, we did have that ability to go outside or go over the top of them,” he said. “Honestly, just having that threat of being able to do that stops teams from doing that a lot. If we can pull a couple guys out of the box that would have to cover Chris, that did give us the ability to do a lot more things inside with the running game.”
The Wildcats went into Zionsville in the regional round, and the Schmidts had a big part in this thriller. Ben found Chris for a 70-yard touchdown pass to force overtime, 7-7, after the first three quarters were scoreless. Both teams kicked field goals in the first overtime to push things to a second OT.
Zionsville scored a touchdown, but Jasper responded when Ben connected with Chris, but rather than try to tie, the Wildcats went for the win with a two-point conversion attempt. Just as the Eagles failed to stop the Schmidts before, they failed to again. Jasper 18, Zionsville 17.
“There’s not much to be nervous about except going out and trying to execute the play,” Ben said. “It wasn’t necessarily a broken play, but the intended receiver in that one, I think, was to throw it to Brian Lewis, but he wasn’t open. So, I looked over and held on as long as I could and hit Chris in the endzone for it.”
Things didn’t stop there, though, when it came to Jasper having to orchestrate something with its backs against the wall. The Wildcats played Indianapolis Cathedral Nov. 16 at home for the semistate game.
However, they didn’t always give their fans something to cheer about that night, at least, not for the first three quarters. Jasper trailed, 21-7, heading into the fourth quarter of play. Lewis ran in three scores to put the Wildcats into the state championship game. They scored 20 unanswered points for a 27-20 victory.
Chris thought Cathedral was probably, by far, the best team the Wildcats saw all year, and he knew they’d have to get some breaks. Jasper caused two fumbles and blocked a punt.
“I think a lot of it had to do with our conditioning through the year, too,” Chris said. “We could tell that they were getting tired, a little sloppy in the fourth quarter, but we were hanging in there. We were fresh. They had some real players there, but when you get tired, you get sloppy and make some mistakes, and we took advantage of a couple big turnovers there, and once the momentum was kind of on our side, they had trouble getting it back and just never could.”
Lewis once again starred for the Wildcats that day. The future Jasper athletic director ran for four touchdowns, but the brothers had their moment as well.
Ben chucked a six-yard score to Chris just before halftime. The Herald reported in its Nov. 26, 2001, edition that Ben was going to run, but suddenly found his brother open, and the thigh-high pass was complete as Chris stayed in bounds.
“He was able to get enough separation that I could squeak one in there,” Ben said.
The twins had one more season of football remaining, but they’d be joined by Luke for their senior season. Lewis had graduated, opening up a chance for Luke to fill in that spot.
“I was kind of fortunate by the timing of it,” Luke said. “If Brian was a year younger, I probably wouldn’t have been able to jump up there.”
The 2002 Wildcats very well could have repeated as state champs. They went 11-3 that year, Brewer’s last. Their three losses came by a combined 10 points, with the final one being a 10-6 defeat at semistate at the hands of Indianapolis Roncalli.
Unlike his brothers, Luke never got to state. He made it to semistate one more time in 2005, only to lose again to Roncalli, 14-9.
“I think the [opposing] game plan going in was, ‘Let’s stack the box, let’s get as many people up to the line of scrimmage as we can,’ and I think that was really the game plan that seemed to work the best whenever we got beat,” Luke said.
The three brothers also shared their recruiting experiences. Chris found the experience to be fun, but also hectic.
“It was pretty crazy,” Chris said. “It seemed like every other night or something our senior year, you’d be getting calls or have to talk on the phone to coaches of various colleges and you’d be getting letters all the time and having to fill out all these college questionnaires. It got to be a lot.”
Ben thought ISU was a good fit for both Chris and himself. He found it a good atmosphere and a good group of people to play with.
Chris started off on the football team and played a bit of baseball, but he found balancing both sports to be a bit much. He requested, and received, a grant to transfer his football scholarship to baseball, allowing him to concentrate completely on the latter.
He thrived after he switched sports. Chris shined in 2007 and 2008, starting in all 50 games both years after having arm trouble in the past. The outfielder batted .368 and .374 in 2007 and 2008, respectively. He had speed where he could steal bases, and was twice second team All-Missouri Valley Conference.
Professional teams did reach out to him, filling out questionnaires for them, but he knew baseball wasn’t going to be the path he’d take in life.
“Unless I was going to be a real high draft pick, I just felt like the direction wasn’t going to be baseball for me long term just because of the kind of shape my arm was in and how I was feeling.”
Ben sparingly got time at quarterback for the Sycamores in 2004 and 2005 before taking on a larger role splitting time as a backup to Reilly Murphy in 2006. Ben appeared in seven games in 2006, tossing five touchdowns against one interception for an ISU team that went 1-10 after going 0-11 the year before.
“I did develop good friendships and relationships with guys up there that I still have today,” Ben said. “The last two years were tough and a grind, but it is what it is. You can’t win all the time, but that was probably some of the tougher times to deal with athletically for me — being used to winning or competing towards the end of college there, it was not winning much.”
It was around the time of Luke’s junior year that the offers started to trickle in for him. Purdue University was the first to offer him a scholarship, and he said the offers poured in from there. He, too, found things to be overwhelming, and said his brothers told him to stay focused. Luke committed to Notre Dame before he started his senior season, not wanting to continually think about his decision.
He recalls how excited the community was about it.
“My grandparents were thrilled, my parents were thrilled,” Luke said. “It’s one of the most historic, prestigious universities football-wise, even academic-wise. In our minds, it didn’t really get a whole lot better than that.”
It became an adjustment for him and became a full-time job. He’d spend more than 20 hours a week just on football, not to mention the academics on top of it. Luke found himself not having much free time, and time management became key to him.
Luke became more of a fullback than a tailback in college. He didn’t play as a freshman, but appeared in 11 games for the Fighting Irish in 2007, making three receptions for 16 yards, and carried the ball twice for six yards.
“Going out there my sophomore year, I started getting more playing time — special teams and a little bit on offense as well, but running through the tunnel with all the fans and all that. It’s pretty surreal. You can’t really put into words what it was like.”
However, Notre Dame went a mere 3-9 that season. Luke noted the graduation from the 10-3 season the year before and many young players stepping in, and it was tough for him to have that lack of success. He felt many players earned a lot of experience that just didn’t translate to wins.
That year was the last of him getting time in the backfield, and he dealt with concussions during his time in South Bend. Luke did not come out for the team his senior year after getting some time and an injury as a junior.
“It was a tough time, probably one of the toughest times of my life so far,” Luke said. “You want your last game to be on your own power. Either you’re not good enough or you’re not going to play in college or one of those things, but just to be — at the snap of the fingers almost — just to be done, it was pretty rough.”
He found it to be for the best, though, citing stories of football-related injuries leading to CTE and other symptoms. Luke said, though, that he has yet to experience any real issues in regards to that at this point in his life.
All three of the brothers are set in their careers now and live in the county. Chris works at Mehringer’s Plumbing & Heating, doing IT work for the company. Ben is in the supply chain field with OFS in Huntingburg. Luke works for Blue Vault Partners, which is headquartered in Georgia, and has a daughter, Hallie, with another on the way soon, but no name has been picked out yet.
“We’re still throwing a couple around,” Luke said. “August 23rd’s the due date, so we’ve got a little time yet.”
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