Former Husker All-American happy to be close to home

Former Husker All-American happy to be close to home

By Jake Knabel, Sports Information Director

After stops in Wisconsin and Texas, T.J. Schmidt has returned to eastern Nebraska. The former All-American gymnast at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln began his position as Concordia’s assistant athletic trainer on July 8.

“I’ve been gone for about three years now,” Schmidt said. “I’ve kind of been all over the place. I’m excited to be back close to home and family and friends.”

The Blair, Neb., native brings a unique perspective to athletic training at Concordia. Schmidt lived out the dream of many Nebraska children having risen to significant heights on the national stage as a Husker athlete. He finished fifth in the pommel horse at the 2007 NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Championships to earn All-America status. Schmidt competed from 2006 to 2009 and served as the team’s co-captain his senior year.

For Schmidt, his time as a Husker student-athlete could not have been scripted any better.

“It was awesome,” Schmidt said. “As I was looking at schools and sending my recruiting stuff out, Nebraska – I’ve always been a diehard Husker fan – it definitely was where I wanted to go. Everything kind of worked out for it that way. It was just great. Everything about it was a great experience.”

Schmidt initially got into gymnastics simply to improve his skillset for other sports. He had no idea of what he was getting into even as he started gymnastics at a young age, influenced by his parents, Rick and Susie.

“My parents started me when I was seven in gymnastics to get more coordinated and get stronger so I would be better at other sports,” Schmidt said. “It wasn’t actually to do gymnastics full time. I started off playing a lot of sports – baseball, soccer, wrestling. But as gymnastics got to be a bigger time commitment, the other sports kind of slowly fell off the list and eventually gymnastics was all was doing.”

Schmidt proved to be a quick study and was soon consumed by gymnastics. He would go on to become one of Nebraska’s most decorated competitors in the sport, winning 23 career event titles while qualifying for the NCAA Championships all four years.

At the same time, Schmidt was a regular on the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll as he majored in nutrition, exercise and health sciences. Schmidt landed on that major after his adviser told him athletes were not allowed to choose athletic training because of the intense time commitment the major requires, in addition to long hours spent conditioning and training for gymnastics.

But Schmidt always had it in his mind that he wanted to be in athletic training, which gives him the feeling he enjoys of being part of a team. His own athletic background gives him the ability to relate to college athletes.

“Just having a background as an athlete in general, you can look at things from a little bit different angle,” Schmidt said. “You can relate to the athletes a lot better because you’ve been in their shoes before. You understand what it takes to compete in college athletics in general. I think it helps form that basis and foundation that you can relate to each other on.”

Between his college career in Lincoln and his arrival in Seward, Schmidt picked up his master’s in athletic training at Texas Tech University and interned in the same field at the University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire before most recently serving as the athletic trainer at Alvord High School in Alvord, Texas.

Concordia head athletic trainer Randy Baack gladly welcomed Schmidt to the university’s sports medicine staff.

“Anyone who can laugh at my bad jokes can’t be all that bad,” Baack joked. “T.J. wants to be here and understands that the profession of athletic training is not a 9-to-5 job.  He is a hard worker as is evident in just two weeks of being on the job. He is easy to get along with and will be an excellent team member in the athletic department. He agrees that we have a responsibility of service to the athletes, coaches, administration and Concordia University.”

Schmidt now looks forward to helping Bulldog athletes recover from injury – one of the great rewards of the profession.

“One of the best feelings in athletic training is seeing the injury and you’re there through the whole process,” Schmidt said. “You’re there when it happens. You go through the rehab and all the different stages they go through, the ups and downs through it all and eventually when they put on the uniform and are back on the field. It’s kind of nice to know that you had a little part in that. Maybe not huge, but you’re with them the whole time through it all.”

Since beginning at Concordia earlier this month, Schmidt has already come to appreciate university staff, particularly those he will work most closely with such as Baack and fellow assistant athletic trainer Stacy Dahlkoetter.

“Initial impressions are awesome,” Schmidt said. “Everyone so far has been great. I’ve really enjoyed everything so far. It hasn’t been too tough or strenuous yet, so pretty laid back which is nice to start with. Everything’s been as good or better than I expected it to be.”

Check out Schmidt’s bio including all of his collegiate athletic achievements via Huskers.com HERE.

23 July 2013

*Photos courtesy of University of Nebraska sports information

T.J. Schmidt nabbed All-America honors in 2007 and qualified for the NCAA Men's Gymnastics National Championships all four years during his career as a Cornhusker.