Caleb Schmitz is starting to get a little stir crazy.
“I’ve had to get creative,” Warwick’s junior football standout said this week. “Like filling up a bag with rocks and using it while I’m lifting.”
That’s what happens when you’re stuck inside, forced to get in your daily workout with no school or gym access.
Schmitz and classmates Nolan Rucci and Joey McCracken, like every other student-athlete in the state, are in another mandatory two-week hiatus from school and athletics, per Gov. Tom Wolf’s orders, that will last until at least April 6.
The Schmitz, Rucci, McCracken trio, who helped the Warriors reach the District Three Class 5A semifinals last fall, are all dealing with different issues this offseason:
Schmitz, an all-state safety, is coming off arthroscopic shoulder surgery back in January; McCracken, an all-state QB who passed for 2,900 yards and 27 touchdowns last fall, suffered a torn ACL in his right knee late in the basketball season, and had surgery on Feb. 12; and Rucci, an all-state offensive lineman, is one of the most sought-after recruits in the country — he’s at 20-plus offers, from every major program coast to coast — as coaches are salivating for his final decision.
Those three are all weighing Division I scholarship offers, and trying to keep up with the process without being able to travel or meet face to face with coaches.
Schmitz has offers from Army, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Central Michigan, UMass and Western Michigan, plus a handful of Ivy League programs. He’s made unofficial visits to Penn State, Syracuse, Bowling Green, Michigan and Western Michigan, and also had to postpone a trip to Cincinnati.
McCracken has no official offers, but is drawing plenty of DI interest; he’s made unofficial visits to Syracuse, Buffalo, Cornell and Monmouth, but he’s had to postpone trips to Bowling Green, Western Michigan and New Hampshire.
Rucci recently had to postpone a trip to Notre Dame.
“Trying to keep busy,” said Rucci, who has been lifting for an hour and a half daily in his basement setup, which includes dumbbells, a squat rack and a punching bag. “I’m still trying to enjoy the process, but my timeline will definitely be extended somewhat because of this.”
The recruiting process has not come to a complete standstill. The biggest change is that athletes can’t travel and visit campuses. That means plenty of phone calls, texts and FaceTime.
“If anything, it has picked up a little bit with all of the calls and texts, and plenty of mail, too,” Rucci said. “Coaches don’t have a lot to do right now, so they’ve been checking in.”
Rucci said he’d like to make all five of his official visits before making his decision — even if it means those visits keep getting pushed back.
“This is a once in a lifetime thing, to be recruited and to make college visits,” McCracken said. “So obviously this is frustrating. But I’m still trying to have fun with it, and enjoy the process.”
A process that for many local student-athletes has been temporarily slowed down because of coronavirus concerns — and for McCracken, rehab after major knee surgery. His goal, he said, is to make it back for some quarterback camps in June or July and, obviously, for Warwick’s season-opener in late August.
“I’m definitely getting better,” said McCracken, who no longer needs a protective knee brace. “I’ve been working on range of motion, and I’ve been able to do squats and other leg exercises. And my muscles are coming back.”
“The biggest thing for me,” he added, “is missing out on visits. As a quarterback, it’s important to build a bond with the coaches, and to be able to sit down with them and see what they’re all about. So this definitely hurts a lot as far as not being able to make any visits.”
Ditto for Rucci.
“Hopefully by the summer everything will open up, because I’d really like to make my visits,” he said. “That will make it easier to decide because you can go to these campuses and get a feel for the place. So it’s tough not being able to make visits and be around the players and the offensive line coaches. I’ve been able to text and FaceTime, but at the end of the day, you want to get on campus and take your visits.”
In the meantime, everyone — including Schmitz, Rucci and McCracken — must simply wait for the green light to resume, well, normalcy.
“I’ve never experienced anything even close to this,” Schmitz said. “Different is definitely the right word to describe all of this. But nobody is pushing me to make any decisions, and this time hasn’t hurt any of the relationships I have with coaches.”