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Learning from a pro: National Football Leaguer Schillinger talks at Blue Hawk Football Camp

Courtesy Photo by Pete Stanton National Football League safety Shann Schillinger speaks to a group of more than 400 players and coaches during Blue Hawk Football Camp on Monday at the Dickinson State practice field.

Shann Schillinger has traveled throughout the country playing in the National Football League.

Schillinger didn’t have to venture too far away from his hometown of Baker, Mont. — only about 115 miles — to be the special guest at Dickinson State’s Blue Hawk Football Camp this week.

The current NFL free agent spoke with and gave advice to more than 400 players and coaches during the camp on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

“I was fortunate enough to be asked to come to help out, talk and shed a little insight with the kids,” Schillinger said, the younger brother of DSU offensive coordinator Jace Schillinger. “That’s something that I like to do. I basically told them what I think it takes to be successful on the football field and in life. A few of the key bullet points is to be coachable and to be accountable for your teammates. I really do think those two things go a long way in the game of football.”

DSU head coach Pete Stanton didn’t formally introduce the 28-year-old NFL safety until the second day of practice on Monday.

However, a majority of the players and coaches at the camp knew who he was.

“It has been a treat to have Shann around — not only in the camp — but to be around our team and athletes at Dickinson State for really all spring,” Stanton said. “Shann is as good as it gets — not only as a player, but as a person. For as good as he is as a player, he’s even a better person. It was really neat to have our whole camp have him there, be involved, talk to many of the athletes about life and making good choices in their lives.”

Carter Blackwell was a player who wasn’t 100 percent sure about who Schillinger was at first.

The Dickinson High senior, who moved from Cypress, Texas, in 2013, said it was great to see a NFL player taking time to speak and give advice at a high school football camp.

“You would think that if it’s someone that plays in the NFL, that he wouldn’t have time for a small high school camp,” Blackwell said. “He made time and really made the camp worth coming to. It was definitely a good investment and I’m glad that I came. He plays the same position I do. I was really able to learn from him and what he’s been through.

“Not everyone can say that they went to a football camp and learned from someone who plays professional football. That’s one thing you can’t take lightly. This guy knows what he’s doing. If he tells you to try something, it’s probably going to work.”

Zach Kubas, who is going to be junior at Dickinson Trinity, said learning from Schillinger was inspirational. Schillinger went from a community of 1,700 people to playing with and against the best in the world..

“If you can put a lot of time and determination in, you can achieve any goal you set,” Kubas said. “It’s pretty amazing. … It’s pretty crazy that you can come from a small place in a small town, you can make an impact and that you can compete with everyone else around the nation at a high level.”

Jace Schillinger is one person who is always happy to see his younger brother.

He was a three-year starting running back for the Blue Hawks and return to DSU in 2013 as an assistant coach.

“It was a neat thing — not just for the kids who were there — but for the other coaches, just to see some different things,” Jace Schillinger said. “It was great that he was able to be here for the camp and support it.”

Road in the NFL

After a successful high school career in Baker, Shann Schillinger accepted a partial scholarship offer to play football at the University of Montana.

Schillinger finished his college football career with 255 tackles and 10 interceptions. He ran a 4.42-second 40-yard dash time during Montana’s pro day, which proved he had NFL-caliber speed.

Schillinger was selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL draft as overall pick No. 171. He played for the Falcons from 2010 until 2013. After his time in Atlanta, Schillinger signed to play for the Tennessee Titans. The Baker native didn’t take any of his time in the NFL for granted.

“I’m really fortunate,” he said. “I got to travel around city to city to play football. It’s something that not many people get to do. I didn’t take it for granted, but one thing I did tell the kids was to not look in the future. You want to live in the now and live in the moment you have in front of you, because like I told them, ‘I got to play at Soldier Field and some very prestigious stadiums, but some of my best memories on the football field was back in high school with my friends.’”

Jace Schillinger said he couldn’t be more proud of what his younger brother has accomplished. One of the most special parts for Jace in watching Shann throughout the years is the ability to stay humble.

“My family, the community of Baker and I are very proud of him,” Jace said. “The NFL game maybe changes some people, but one thing that I can tell you is he hasn’t changed one bit. He’s still the same person he was when he was growing up.”

Waiting for the call

Shann Schillinger was cut by Tennessee in the 2013 season, making him a free agent.

As he waits for a NFL team to call, he has been training and keeping in shape to be ready for that moment.

“I’m just waiting, hoping and I have my fingers crossed that someone gives me a call,” he said. “You just never know. It’s a humbling business. A lot of people are fighting for a job right now and I’m one of them.”