Baker’s Schillinger ready for Year 2 with FalconsJace Schillinger remembers watching his younger brother play along the sidelines during Baker (Mont.) High School football practices. Now, he watches him on TV.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
Jace Schillinger remembers watching his younger brother play along the sidelines during Baker (Mont.) High School football practices.
Now, he watches him on TV.
Shann Schillinger, the 24-year-old brother of the former Dickinson State University record-setting running back, enters his second season as a safety for the Atlanta Falcons when they visit the Chicago Bears at 11 a.m. today at Soldier Field.
Jace Schillinger said watching his brother play on a NFL field still gives him a surreal feeling.
“It’s pretty special,” he said. “I’ve been able to watch him grow up all the way from the younger years when he was in elementary school. He was a kid who was always on the sidelines, always at practice.
“That’s the most special thing to me, seeing all the hard work he’s put in through the years and seeing it pay off for him. He’s still Shann to me. He’s not an NFL guy. I don’t think of him that way.”
Shann Schillinger doesn’t carry himself in that manner either.
To the people who know him best, he’s still the same humble guy that earned only a partial football scholarship to the University of Montana.
At 6-foot, 202 pounds, Shann Schillinger caught the eyes of NFL scouts because of his speed, nose for the football and ability to deliver hard hits.
A major contributor on special teams as a rookie, he made just eight tackles in 15 games before fracturing his ankle in Week 16 during a Monday night game against the New Orleans Saints.
He had surgery and spent most of his five months in rehab at an off-site facility in suburban Atlanta chosen by him for the Falcons because the NFL lockout prohibited him from using team facilities.
“Things are feeling good now,” Shann Schillinger said. “It’s hardly even noticeable anymore.”
Now, he said, it’s time for him to prove his worth to the team.
Shann Schillinger is listed as the Falcons’ backup at free and strong safety and will be on the field for most special teams plays.
“You’ve got that rookie stuff behind you. You’re going to make mistakes, you’re a rookie. But I’m excited to go out and play Sunday,” Shann Schillinger said during a phone interview Thursday. “I think it’s important for me, for our team especially, to get out to a fast start, play well early, get some confidence and show you belong and to show you’ve improved from year one to year two.
“Mainly, I’ve got to be a core special teams guy for our team. That’s something I’m fine with, because it’s a very important part of the game and we need to be very good in the special teams department this year.”
Shann Schillinger doesn’t know what kind of playing time he’ll see outside of special teams this season. All he knows is that he has to be ready to see his playing time skyrocket at a moment’s notice.
“God forbid, you don’t want to see anyone get hurt,” Shann Schillinger said. “But if someone does, you want to show that you can pick things up without getting reps and be a reliable backup.”
Schillinger almost chose DSU
As he walks onto Soldier Field today in the Falcons’ No. 39 jersey, it’s amazing to note how Shann Schillinger’s choices led him to this point.
When it came time for him to decide where to play college football, he was down to two options: accept Montana’s partial scholarship offer or follow in the footsteps of his brother and several other Baker standouts and play for Dickinson State University.
“Realistically, at that time, you hoped by the time he gets to be a sophomore, junior, senior, you hope he gets a chance to contribute,” Jace Schillinger said.
Shann Schillinger ended his career at Montana with 255 tackles and 10 interceptions. After his senior year concluded, he ran a 4.42-second 40-yard dash time during the Grizzlies’ pro day.
Suddenly, he was a NFL prospect.
“You kind of thought he was going to get a chance as a free agent,” Jace Schillinger said.
It turned out much better than that.
The Falcons selected Shann Schillinger in the sixth round of the 2010 draft with the 171st overall pick.
This year, the second of his four-year deal, he will earn $436,000 in base salary and signing bonuses.
Jace Schillinger, then an assistant football coach at the University of North Dakota, was at the team’s spring scrimmage when his brother was drafted.
It didn’t take him long to learn the news though.
“I had text messages, phone calls, everything,” Jace Schillinger said. “It took a little while for me to sink in, too.”
Countless area connections
Though he chose Montana over DSU, Shann Schillinger’s connections to the area and the DSU football team are seemingly endless.
Jace Schillinger is the Blue Hawks’ all-time leading rusher and holds nine DSU football records including most career rushing yards (4,149). Their brother-in-law, Tyler Greff, was an all-Dakota Athletic Conference receiver. Heck, several of Shann Schillinger’s high school teammates and friends are former or current Blue Hawks. He was even a groomsman in former DSU running back Zach Hepperle’s wedding last summer.
His wife, Ericka (Niece) Schillinger, is a Beach High School graduate who is finishing up her pharmacy degree at Montana.
Being away from each other is difficult, Ericka Schillinger said.
Then again, she said it’s almost worth it to watch her husband live the dream of every football player.
“We kind of knew that it wasn’t going to be easy and wasn’t going to be fun,” Ericka Schillinger said. “We just told ourselves that was how it was going to be for a couple years, at least. We just try to look forward to every time we get to see each other. I couldn’t be happier for him.”
And why shouldn’t she be? Her husband should be one of the happiest men in the world this morning.
“It’s that time of year where everyone is amped up and excited to go and finally play for real,” Shann Schillinger said.
It’s time to play a little football. Just like he did on the Baker sidelines not that long ago.