Optimist linemen have brains to complement brawn

These two linemen often are deep in thought – in and out of football gear.

Earl Chism of Pleasant Grove High School and Kameron Schroeder of Cosumnes Oaks are thinking-man linemen. Competing in the trenches goes beyond pushing and shoving, they insist. There’s a cerebral approach, too: hand placement, footwork, the hips, the drive.

Chism and Schroeder, who will suit up one final time in their school colors Saturday in the 57th Optimist All-Star senior showcase at Folsom High School, are examples of linemen who do much more than block and tackle.

Chism, who has committed to Yale of the Ivy League, wants to go to medical school because he wants to help people and because he grew up around the field. His parents, Darren and Blondell, met in medical school and are in the field.

At first glance, though, there appears to be a conflict. Chism, a 6-foot-2, 240-pound defensive end, has knuckles battered and scarred and pinkie fingers twisted and swollen. And he wants to perform surgery with fine instruments someday?

“Oh, yeah,” Chism said after a recent South practice. “I can’t wait. My fingers will recover. I’m excited. Yale is a lifetime opportunity.”

First there’s one more game, for the South, and his teammates insist that Chism not wear sleeves. Chism, you see, has bulging biceps that should never be concealed, the gag goes. The powerful arms match his personality. Chism is a regular on Twitter with a title to match: “The Earl of Chism.” He often posts a grinning photo with these words, “Think positive.”

That’s a motto shared by Schroeder, a three-year starter at left tackle for Cosumnes Oaks. Like Chism, he is a fine student with a 4.3 grade-point average.

Schroeder, 6-5 and 260 pounds, is headed on scholarship to Duke, where he will study environmental science and then pursue law school.

Normally, Schroeder is a walking laugh track. But he’s still pained by the death of his close friend, fellow Cosumnes Oaks lineman Josh Davis, who died in a car accident Dec. 14. In the hospital trauma room, Schroeder offered comforting words and hugs of supportto family and friends. During a fundraiser to help pay for funeral costs, Schroeder was a steadying presence and a reminder that it’s OK for even the largest guy in the room to cry.

“He had so much heart, such a great guy,” Schroeder said of Davis. “He practiced and played through injuries. He played and did well in school, despite losing his father to illness last year. It’s sad, and I’ll never forget him. I want to honor him.”

Schroeder requested to wear 77 – Davis’ number – in the Optimist game. His Twitter profile shows a photo of Schroeder and Davis, in uniform, as Cosumnes Oaks team captains.

Chism and Schroeder understand they won’t be involved in their beloved sports for much longer. It’s rare enough to land a scholarship; it’s even more rare to compete past college.

Said Schroeder: “Football isn’t forever.”

Chism said he felt like it took forever just to get on the football field. He didn’t pull on shoulder pads and a helmet until the eighth grade, and he’s still learning the game.

“Once I started to play, I loved it,” Chism said. “I’ve been hooked ever since.”

Chism’s parents regularly attend games, both hoping those one-day doctor’s fingers hold up.

Schroeder started football when he was in the second grade. His parents – Diane, a veterinarian, and Eric, a lawyer – have watched him play since the beginning.

Schroeder enjoyed his recruiting trip to Duke and when his family hosted a dinner for Duke coaches during a recent visit to Elk Grove.

Schoeder knows football isn’t forever, but for now, he said, he’s enjoying the thrill ride.