“To be honest with you, I didn’t know what I wanted to do after high school,” Schraeder said. “I just thought I’d take classes part-time and try to figure things out. I had a lot of growing up to do, too.”
Things started to change after Schraeder and a buddy drove over the Manhattan (Kan.) to hang out for the weekend. He was playing basketball when Kansas State’s tight end coach noticed his size and athletic ability.
“He said, ‘hey you need to come in and we’ll get you to walk on to the team,’” Schraeder said. “It turned out that I didn’t take my ACT in high school and there was the non-qualifier rule for the Big 12. So, they said I could go to a junior college.”
Ryan’s father talked him into playing at Butler Community College (Kan.). But those part-time college hours he took right after high school triggered his NCAA clock and even after a year at Butler, he only had two years of eligibility left at the FCS (formerly Division II) level.
“After the whole thing, I had to go Division II,” Schraeder said. “Even to get two years at a D2 (school), I had to take a semester off, because I had too many credits.”
Instead of Kansas State, Schraeder, who was a named a junior college all-American after his season at Butler, ended up at Valdosta State.
In 2012, he was named an All-American for the second consecutive season and helped lead the Blazers to the national championship, a 35-7 win over Winston Salem State in Florence, Ala. It was Valdosta State’s third national title over the last eight seasons.
“We are talking about a guy that played three years of organized football and was an all-American all three years,” Valdosta State head coach David Dean said. “I don’t know if that’s ever taken place before.”
Schraeder went undrafted and signed with the Falcons.
“A lot of people (went) back and saw that he played only three years of college football,” Dean said. “But if they were around the kid, saw his work ethic and the way that he approached and went about his business, I don’t think there’s any question in my mind that he would have been drafted.”
With the season-ending ankle injury to Mike Johnson, Schraeder slid up the depth chart to the No. 3 tackle spot and will compete for the starting right tackle spot against Lamar Holmes, a third-round draft pick in 2012.
Schraeder played 34 offensive snaps against the Bengals, logging action at both right and left tackle. Holmes played 39.
“Lamar (Holmes) and Ryan had to step up in a game situation,” Falcons offensive line coach Paul Dunn said. “We had some good, we had some bad and we had some ugly out there. So, (we saw some) things that you would expect from a rookie and a second-year player, who doesn’t have too many reps underneath his belt. We’re going to build on that and try to continue on the good path, eliminate the bad things and go forward.”
Dunn coached at Kansas State from 1998 to 2002 and is familiar with the area where Schraeder was raised. He wasn’t surprised to hear about Schraeder’s meat delivery job.
“I know a little bit about the work ethic of those young men in that area,” Dunn said. “They have a choice, they either go out in the fields and work with their Dads, riding on a combine somewhere farming or they go to school. It’s not real difficult to figure out the choices that you have out there.”
Dunn sees Schraeder’s work ethic in practice.
“He’s a hard worker,” Dunn said. “We’re looking forward to see how he goes down the road here.”
Schraeder flashes back to the chance meeting with the Kansas State coach at the point where his life started to gain some post-high school traction.
“I never would have thought I’d be playing in a NFL game in the next four years,” Schraeder said. “It’s pretty crazy, but it’s taken a lot of hard work to get here. I was a late bloomer. It just took a lot of time to figure out what I wanted to do.”