The one kick wonder


Displaced by a cut program, the senior punter turned into a valuable asset for SDSU.

By: Shane Koob

Assistant Sports Editor

He had no idea it was going to happen.

Then again, not many people saw the University of Nebraska-Omaha eliminating its football program with the move to Division I athletics coming.

“At first, you’re just really upset,” Maverick-turned-Jackrabbit punter Jason Schlautman said. “You’re mad and you don’t really understand it … we just had to accept it and go forward.”

It was especially puzzling to Schlautman and his former UNO teammates because the program had good coaches, nice facilities and a strong tradition, including a 10-0 record his first year on the team. Nonetheless, he no longer had a team to punt for.

But it wasn’t long until the calls requesting his services started pouring in. Schlautman said the weeks that followed were pretty hectic as he tried to figure out where to go, he knew he wanted to keep playing. Most schools contacting him were Division II programs, but SDSU emerged as the front-runner.

One of the more important factors for Schlautman was being able to continue his classes and graduate on time, which he said he found at SDSU.

The stars also aligned for Schlautman on the field, as the Jacks were looking for a punter to fill the shoes of Dean Priddy, a 2010 senior.

“There was a spot open and [special teams coordinator Shannon Moore] stressed how important [SDSU’s] special teams are and how much they work on that, so I was pretty impressed by that. I took a visit up here and I liked it,” Schlautman said.

Head coach John Stiegelmeier said SDSU was looking at players for a few different positions after UNO shut down their program. That’s when they found Schlautman.

“The more we researched him, we thought he’d be a great option really,” Stiegelmeier said. “Initially it was kind of discovering him and then we really lucked out getting him.”

So when the the transfer was complete, Schlautman found himself heading to Brookings last summer to prepare for the season with his new teammates and get accustomed to a whole different level of football. It didn’t seem to phase him.

“Punting at D-II is no different than punting at D-I. [SDSU] ran the same scheme that we ran at UNO, so that was pretty easy and I just think it really helped having the three years starting at UNO and it helped make the transition pretty easy,” Schlautman said.

The addition of the Columbus, Neb. native was initially more of an insurance policy for the SDSU kicking game, but Schlautman came in and won the starting job over redshirt freshman Ethan Sawyer. The move couldn’t have worked better for the Jacks, and Schlautman has the stats and post-season honors to prove it.

Posting a career-high average of 42.2 yards a punt, tying a career-long boot of 63 yards, nine of his 57 punts inside the 20-yard line and 14 punts of 50-plus yards, Schlautman was the lone Jackrabbit selected for the All-MVFC first team. He was also honored on the MVFC All-newcomer team.

Schlautman credits almost everyone but himself for the impressive numbers he posted in the 2011 season.

“Our scheme and our coaches and our unit really helped make that punting average what it is. I had the easy part. I just had to catch the ball and punt it,” Schlautman said.

“I thought he did a tremendous job. A tremendous job in every area. From just adapting to a new program to really excelling on the football field, yeah, I was very happy,” Stiegelmeier said of Schlautman’s season.

Perhaps the highlight of Schlautman’s brief stint with the Jackrabbits had nothing to do with kicking a ball.

For SDSU fans, it was the ‘fake’ punt on Hobo Day against Southern Illinois, which Stiegelmeier insists wasn’t really a fake punt. Schlautman confirmed the denial and said the run was caused by an off-target snap followed by a heavy rush from the Salukis that forced him to make a play.

“I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get the punt off. I started taking off left and I wasn’t sure if I was going to punt it or run and I saw a hole and I just went after it. I saw the first down marker and I knew I had to get that or I wasn’t going to be able to go back to the sideline,” Schlautman said.

The 18-yard scramble kept the SDSU offense on the field and the drive ended with a touchdown to put the Jacks up 35-14 at halftime. It was a crucial play at a crucial time and one that will arguably go down as one of the top moments of the 2011 season.

“Just a heads up play,” Stiegelmeier said. “In football we talk about guys where the game’s moving in slow motion for them, they can make decisions on the run. That’s a great example of a guy who saw a bad situation and turned it into a good situation.”

With his football eligibility over, Schlautman plans on returning to UNO next semester to student teach and eventually graduate as a Maverick.

“It’s been very unique and it’s been great,” Schlautman said of his time at SDSU. “It’s been weird coming up here for four or five months and heading right back [to Omaha], but it’s been unique.”

Given the situation Schlautman was in after UNO dropped it’s football program and then winding up an all-conference punter for SDSU, perhaps turning bad situations into good situations is just what he does best.