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Schmidt enjoying return to football

Watching Mitchell safety Jed Schmidt roam the defensive backfield early in the season, it's hard to imagine that the 5-foot-11 senior hasn't played football in the past five years.

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Mitchell's Jed Schmidt (24) tries to elude Yankton's Ben Jurrens (11) during a game earlier this season at Joe Quintal Field in Mitchell. (Matt Gade/Republic)

Watching Mitchell safety Jed Schmidt roam the defensive backfield early in the season, it's hard to imagine that the 5-foot-11 senior hasn't played football in the past five years.

Schmidt joined the Mitchell High School football team for his senior season after not competing in the sport since he was in the seventh grade. And in his return to the sport, he's has made an instant impact on the improved Kernel defense.

"A lot of my friends participate in football and seeing them be successful last year made we want to join it," said Schmidt, who debated joining the team last year as junior but had fall baseball commitments. "I didn't play last year, which was a regret. This year, I'm loving every second of it."

The senior standout has competed as a pitcher and outfielder on the MHS club baseball team and the Post 18 Legion baseball team throughout his prep career, as well as Kernel basketball. Last year, Schmidt was the MHS boys basketball team's starting point guard and the friendships he's developed in other sports have carried over to football.

On the field, Schmidt has improved hand-in-hand with the Kernel defense. The unit has allowed only 13 points in the past eight quarters against Yankton and Watertown. Through three games, Schmidt has recorded one interception, one pass deflection, 23 tackles and one tackle for loss.

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"We have to keep going to the ball," Schmidt said about the defense. "We are getting nine or ten guys to the ball and we're not letting teams break tackles. We are making them work for their yards."

The return to the football field didn't come without its challenges. Schmidt said he learned a lot in the first few weeks of practice, along with the first few games.

"The coaches have done a really good job with me, making sure I'm in the right places. The first few weeks and the first game were a little rough, but I've picked it up as quick as I could," Schmidt said. "It's also helpful having Cody (Reichelt) or the linebackers right in front of me. If I'm not on the right side I can talk to guys who have been out there before."

Mitchell head coach Kent VanOverschelde said the improvements Schmidt has made from the first day of practice to this point in the season have been vast.

"It has been a process with him and we understood that," VanOverschelde said. "We've tried not to put too much on his plate, but we also understand his ability and willingness to contribute to the team."

VanOverschelde also praised Schmidt's team-first commitment and added the Kernels gained another "playmaker" with Schmidt on the team.

"When you have player like Jed, who understands his athletic ability and wants to contribute a team member, that shows he's a person of character," VanOverschelde said. "Those are the guys we want on this football team. Jed has been a nice addition."

Centerfielder turned safety

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For Schmidt, who spent all spring and summer roaming center field for the club and Legion baseball teams, the transition to being Mitchell's lone safety on defense incorporates a lot of the same skills used as a centerfielder.

"I like it back there," Schmidt said. "It is a lot like roaming centerfield when the other team is passing."

Alongside cornerbacks Sam Michels and Reed Overweg, Schmidt and the entire defensive backfield have helped the Kernels record six interceptions in three games.

VanOverschelde called Schmidt's position as a safety, the last line of defense for the Kernels, "natural."

"He's a key contributor on that defense and he's understands he's a part of that process," VanOverschelde said. "He understands his role and it's been exciting to see him grow in it."

After a five-year hiatus from the sport of football, Schmidt said he missed many aspects about the game. When he finally put the pads and helmet back on, he realized what he missed most.

"Football is the ultimate team game," Schmidt said. "There are 11 guys out there and if one guy misses their assignment it can be a busted play. It's not like other sports where one certain guy can mask other weaknesses."

Related Topics: KERNELSFOOTBALL
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