The future looks pretty clear for Eagles fullback Owen Schmitt as the Green Bay Packers roll into the cheese steak capitol of the world for Sundays NFC Wildcard playoff game.
As for Rich Rodriguez, Schmitt’s former coach at West Virginia University things are a little hazy.
After three seasons at Michigan, and a 38-point blowout loss in the Gator Bowl to Mississippi State on New Years Day, the university decided it was time to part ways with Rodriguez this week.
“He really wanted to change things,” Schmitt said after the news of the firing broke, “it takes time to do that.”
For Rodriguez time was his biggest enemy as a Wolverine going 15-22 and a miserable 0-6 against Big 10 rivals Michigan State and Ohio State.
Summed up — Michigan nation wanted Rodriguez’s head.
Oddly enough it’s not the first time Rodriguez has had a Godfather type departure from a university.
In 2007 Rodriguez led WVU to a #1 nation ranking behind three NFL backfield bound players in Schmitt, Steve Slanton and Pat White before losing to the University of Pitt in the final game of the season.
Apparently that seemed to be the perfect time for Rodriguez to announce he was leaving the Mountaineers to succeed Lloyd Carr at Michigan.
A punch in the gut, even to a bunch of Mountaineers.
“It bothered me, he could have at least coached the bowl game,” said Schmitt who was in his senior season when Rodriguez left the hills of West Virginia. “It would have been nice to go out with him.”
The Mountaineers moved on, defeating the University of Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl with interim head coach Bill Stewart at the helm.
“That’s how football works,” said Schmitt. “Everyone had their own opinions but there were some issues people didn’t know about.”
Rodriguez had just finished up contract renegotiation’s with the Mountaineers making his departure national news because of a barrage of lawsuits and death threats that surrounded his unpopular decision
“It was different for me,” Schmitt recalls who ended his Mountaineer career with a bowl win and a ticket to play with the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL. “He hadn’t made any promises to me like the guys coming in.”
Rodriguez didn’t have much time to make many promises to Michigan players as recruits began to transfer left and right, including draft bound star quarterback Ryan Mallett who headed south to Arkansas shortly after the announcement.
Perhaps it was Rodriguez’s non-pro style offense or his lack of loyalty, either way it seems players like Mallett made the right call.
Before the 2008 NFL draft Schmitt made a trip to Michigan to see his former coach. “It was like nothing changed. It was almost my whole coaching staff except it was Michigan.”
Despite his untimely departure Schmitt holds no grudges against the coach who gave him a walk-on starting spot. “He’s coach Rodriguez, he’s got a unique style of coaching. He’s just a blue collar guy and that’s how he coaches.”
Through it all Schmitt still stays in contact with his former coach, speaking with Rodriguez out in Seattle during the preseason shortly before the Eagles snagged his brash hard knock style of play
“He has respect for me and I have respect for him too. He gave me the chance to play and that’s all I wanted.”