SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Orland Park’s Michael Schofield grew up a Bears fan and remembers the disappointment he felt watching Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts beat the Bears in Super Bowl XLI. ON Sunday, he’ll be protecting Manning as the Broncos starting right tackle against the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50.
“It’s unreal,” said the 25-year-old Schofield, a third-round draft pick (95th overall) from Michigan in 2014. “Especially your first time in the huddle — it’s kind of surreal that you’re actually in a huddle with Peyton Manning. He’s an awesome guy. He’s a huge help — always trying to coach. He’s like another coach out there.”
With 15 starts — all of them this season — Schofield will be the least-experienced player on the Broncos’ offensive line in Super Bowl 50. Even rookie center Matt Paradis has started all 18 games this season.
A little nervous?
“It’s more anticipation — I just want to get to the game already,” the 6-6, 301-pound Schofield said Wednesday. “I feel like this week [after not playing last week] is just dragging on so long. But I’m excited for it.”
Schofield wanted to be a firefighter like his father or a baseball player while growing up in Orland Park. He followed his younger brother, Andrew — who ended up playing at South Dakota — into football and grew into the sport at Sandburg High School. He credited Sandburg offensive line coach Jeff Obradovich with helping him get the most out of his ability. “He taught me so much about the game — about effort and never giving up on a play,” Schofield said. “That was big for me.”
Schofield was a three-year starter for Michigan — one year at guard and two better ones at tackle. He didn’t think about the NFL until he played well against Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt as a red-shirt sophomore. And here he is, in the Super Bowl.
“He’s gotten better in every game,” Broncos assistant line coach James Cregg said. “He’s a really athletic guy. He’s smart. He understands the game. He really wants to be good. He’s only going to get better as he gets more repetitions and gets bigger and stronger.”
Though he has hit the big-time, Schofield still gets a thrill out of reminiscing about his high school days — particularly a 23-22 upset of rival Lincoln-Way East as a junior in 2007.
“We were down 15 points [22-7] going into the fourth quarter and came back and won,” Schofield said. “That game was awesome. I still remember it. I still get chills thinking about that game to this day.”
The stakes will be much, much higher on Sunday. But Schofield still has a fine appreciation for the good old days. He hasn’t forgotten where he came from — and not just because he still lives in Orland Park.
“I always try to go back to Sandburg whenever I go home. I just love it,” Schofield said. “It’s the purest form of the game — kids are just playing it because they love it. It’s just awesome watching the high school games.”