Back in early October 2018, Garrett Schardt owned one career collegiate catch to his name when offensive coordinator Reggie Corbin dialed up a trick play. On a unique flea flicker design, Schardt hauled in a pass from then quarterback Andrew Perea around midfield and raced to the end zone for an 82-yard touchdown reception as part of a win over Dakota Wesleyan. It was an early ‘wow’ moment for the true freshman from Bruning-Davenport-Shickley High School, which plays eight-man football.
Looking back on it now, one can easily see how that moment foreshadowed what was to come for Schardt, the GPAC’s best tight end in both 2020 and 2021. His growth is the byproduct of four years of physical and mental maturity.
“Freshman and sophomore year was kind of different because I played receiver in high school and didn’t have to block much,” Schardt said. “I wasn’t the best blocker my freshman and sophomore year and I didn’t have the most fun with it. I was okay playing there if that was what the coaches needed me at. I had to get better at my blocking. As a junior and senior, I understood my role and I knew that if I wanted to help the team, I had to be able to do everything well.”
With four seasons completed, Schardt’s career honor roll includes two First Team All-GPAC awards, recognition as a 2021 NAIA Honorable Mention All-American and statistical totals of 72 receptions for 1,188 yards and nine touchdowns. Not since NAIA Hall of Famer Ross Wurdeman shined from 1998 through 2001 has a Concordia tight end come close to that level of production. Schardt just isn’t a normal tight end. He’s the type that can slip one tackle and beat the opposing secondary in a race to the end zone – like he did on a 72-yard touchdown reception this past season versus Briar Cliff.
As color commentator on Bulldog radio broadcasts this season, Wurdeman has taken pride in seeing another tight end burst onto the scene at Concordia. Said Wurdeman, “After watching Garrett from the sidelines in 2018 and 2019 and from the radio booth the last two years, there was no question that he was the best tight end in the GPAC the last two years. What I noticed about Garrett was how much better he got each year and how his confidence grew each year too. He made some really hard catches look easy. A lot of his catches were short passes that he turned into big plays or touchdowns.”
Schardt’s background isn’t unlike some other native Nebraskans who play football at Concordia. He grew up in Davenport and worked on the family farm. Concordia was already on the radar during his high school days with one of his older sisters first choosing to attend college in Seward. Schardt’s prep career was a stellar one at the small but mighty BDS. He led the Eagles to two state football championships, was named all-state and was selected to the Nebraska Shrine Bowl. Of course, Schardt played just about every sport at BDS, where he graduated from in a class of 24.
Joked Schardt, “You get pretty close with everyone when you’re playing the same sports with each other since you’re six or seven years old.”
It didn’t take a whole lot of time for Schardt to adjust from eight-man to 11-man college football. Schardt played extensively almost immediately. The former prep wide receiver caught a combined 15 passes over his first two seasons before coming into his own in 2020. Schardt snared 25 catches for 430 yards and three scores as a junior. Then as a senior, those numbers jumped to 32 receptions for 504 yards and five touchdowns.
For Concordia, the tight end became as critical of a playmaker as anyone on the offense. The Bulldog staff has made use of his talents in a variety of ways.
Said Daberkow during the 2021 season, “Garrett is a really dangerous football player because he can line up at tight end and we can also split him out. He’s a matchup problem for linebackers for sure and there are a lot of defensive backs that can’t really hang with him. It’s good to see the production he’s had. We’ve seen him just shake off tackles and run to the end zone. If you can call a six-yard hitch and it turns into a 40-yard touchdown, that’s always helpful. He’s a great teammate and has the best Fu Manchu moustache on the team.”
The mustachioed Schardt will always remember the 2020 game at eventual national runner up Northwestern when he made seven catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns. If there hadn’t yet been a signal that Schardt had arrived, this was it. The best game of his career to date came against one of the best teams on the entire schedule.
Said Schardt, “My coaches realized that I could be a big part of the receiving game. Definitely the Northwestern game stands out. We didn’t get the win though. For me personally, that was a memorable game. I want to see the team succeed over my succuss so that would be my No. 1 thing.”
It’s players like Schardt who made the 2021 season the success that it was with a 7-3 overall record and a sweep of in-state GPAC opponents for the first time since the 1970 campaign. Schardt’s career is essentially the idealized version of how Concordia Football loves to see student-athletes progress over four years. He played a position he wasn’t initially keen on and worked with a long line of quarterbacks, but he put his head down and got better, year after year.
One of the rewards came in the form of All-America status, something Schardt hadn’t been holding his breath on. Said Schardt, “I really wasn’t expecting it at all. Someone sent me a picture of the tweet of me being named honorable mention. I was kind of shocked. I was hoping for that, but I wasn’t expecting it.”
This might not be the end. Schardt (who will graduate in May 2022 with a degree in agricultural science) has the option to use the extra ‘COVID’ year of eligibility he has left – and he’s seriously considering it. Wurdeman would love to root for one of his favorite Bulldogs for one more year.
“There are 10 coaches in the GPAC that don’t want to see him again,” Wurdeman said. “But I know that all of the coaches and fans at CU, especially me, would love to see him back in 2022.”
Schardt will make the call when he’s ready. “I’ve just been talking to people that have taken a fifth year and people who haven’t taken a fifth year and seeing what they think looking back on it,” Schardt said. “Do they regret or not? That’s going to be a big part in my decision whether I come back or not. I have some time still to decide. I definitely want to talk to other guys about the possibility of coming back for a fifth year.”
No longer the scared freshman on the receiving end of a flea flicker, Schardt has made his mark, whether his career is finished or not.