Schlobohm '00 may just kick his way into the NFL
He only touches the ball about four times a game. If a team is playing really well, he comes in less. Nonetheless, a punter can be one of the most important players on a football team.
For Dartmouth, Wayne Schlobohm '00 is a star punter.
A four-year starter at the position, "The Bomb" has improved every year in his accuracy and distance. After graduation, he has a chance to make a National Football League roster.
"Being asked to come to a camp and try out -- my coach thinks it's a good possibility," Schlobohm said. "If it does arise, I'll definitely give it consideration."
In the meantime, he has two more terms at Dartmouth to figure out what comes next.
More immediately was his last football game of the season -- against Princeton at Memorial Field this Saturday -- which is the last collegiate game for the Class of 2000.
"It's a lot of feelings. I don't know if I'm ever going to play again," Schlobohm said. "There's a possibility that I may but there's also a possibility that I won't so I'm definitely going to play it like it is."
"I've been playing four years with several of the guys and there's definitely some emotions playing with the [seniors] for the last time."
In his career, Schlobohm has kicked for over 10,000 yards with an average distance of 40.1 yards per kick. This season he was averaging a personal-best 41.8 yards before the Princeton game but upped the mark to 42.3 with a solid performance against the Tigers. His long for the season is 60 yards.
This weekend gave the Big Green and Schlobohm a chance to end the season as winners.
When Schlobohm started at Dartmouth, winning was the norm.
Despite doubts about his academic abilities and a desire to play Division I college football, Schlobohm came to Dartmouth in the fall of 1996.
After beating out a sophomore for the vacant punting job in fall practice, he started on the varsity squad immediately and witnessed one of Dartmouth's finest season's in history.
"At the time we really needed a punter, and he stepped up right away," Dartmouth head coach John Lyons said.
The 1996 team finished the season with an undefeated 10-0 mark. A small part of the effort, freshman Wayne Schlobohm averaged 37.7 yards on 55 punts.
"We had a lot of positive people on that team, a lot of good athletes," Schlobohm said. "To come in and play as a freshman and be able to travel and see these things -- I enjoyed it. We could not seem to do anything wrong."
The following year saw a small letdown when Lehigh broke the Big Green's national-best winning streak and later when Harvard also downed Dartmouth. However, at 8-2 the Green were still near the top of the League.
With the graduation of key players on both offense and defense, the Green's fortunes have fallen just as their punter's has risen. But Schlobohm said losing hurts him just like the rest of the team.
"You definitely get depressed that the team is losing and you want to get it over with," he said. "You're definitely less pumped up, you're definitely less excited. I can say that it definitely affects my punting, although it really shouldn't."
It's hard to imagine how much better Schlobohm's numbers might be if the team were winning. Over the past two losing seasons he has averaged almost 41 yards per punt.
More importantly, Schlobohm's accuracy continues to improve.
"I really pride myself on the ability to place the ball," he said. "My stats have been getting better because when I'm given the chance to kick it as high and far as I possibly can I do that."
But, Schlobohm warned, "stats don't tell the whole story. I have to take off some power to get accuracy on it."
Schlobohm said as a freshman he was often asked to "pooch" kick the ball so that it landed inside the 20 yard line, and that hurt his statistics. As a result of this practice, however, he now aims to land the ball inside the five yard line.
"He's done a great job with directional kicking," Lyons said. "He's been very effective dropping the ball inside the 20 yard line and even inside the 10."
Schlobohm's ability to kick with height and distance as well as angling and accuracy in shorter distances gives the Big Green a major advantage on special teams that only some Ivy schools enjoy.
There are several other top punters who play for Ivy schools, and Schlobohm said he pays attention to how well they're doing.
About Yale's Eric Johnson, the leading punter in the Ivies and also a wide receiver, Schlobohm said, "I'm not really sure he has the heart of a punter."
While the Ivy League has attracted top punters like Schlobohm, Johnson and Columbia's Ryan Kiernan, Schlobohm said he considered playing elsewhere during high school.
"I have two large crates of the [recruiting] letters that came to me," he said. "I was really interested in Clemson."
Although he was a punter, placekicker and quarterback in high school, Schlobohm was recruited strictly as a punter.
Schools "don't really want to give scholarships to just punters," he said.
Schlobohm was recruited by a number of Division I schools, including two major schools in his home state, the University of Florida and Florida State University.
After receiving conflicting messages from these schools and finding that Clemson had a young punter already starting, Schlobohm continued to look for a place to play.
"Dartmouth earnestly wanted me on the team," he said. "They actually called me on the phone and talked to me like I was a person. I genuinely [would] have a shot to play for four years."
Encouraged by his academically-minded mother and his athletically-inclined father, Schlobohm came to Hanover. He has broken a number of Dartmouth records on the field and succeeded off it.
On Saturday, those four playing years will be finished. So what comes next?
Schlobohm said he is involved in corporate recruiting mostly for consulting jobs and is also applying to graduate schools to continue studies in his major field, mathematics.
But these options could certainly be put off if the call comes from the NFL.
"He's a guy that a lot of the [NFL] teams have been in to look at," Lyons said. "They feel he's got a good leg. I think Wayne will be in a camp next year as a free agent."
Lyons said Schlobohm will need to improve his hang time to make a team next year, but that he keeps improving in practice.
"He has good average, good distance," Lyons said. "I think he's going to have an opportunity."
Schlobohm said he has no expectation of being drafted, and has no great expectations.
"I'm not betting anything on the NFL," he said.
But, if Dartmouth football were to send some company to Zack Walz '98 and Lloyd Lee '98, a good bet would be Schlobohm.