Former Iowa quarterback Quinn Schulte became the Hawkeyes High School glue

IOWA CITY, Iowa — It’s become an annual feel-good ritual at Iowa State when head coach Kirk Ferentz made short talk with a walking tour and awarded him a scholarship. Timing happens at random, sometimes after games, during workouts at camp or before off-season workouts. Often a player’s most emotional moment does not come from Ferentes’ words but from telling his parents the news.

In a skillful exercise earlier this summer, Ferenc put together three previous scholarship courses. Among them was junior safety Quinn Schulte, a former two-time state quarterback champion at nearby Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Xavier High School. Pulling Schulte aside during a skillful exercise, Ferentz broke the news and then announced it at a team meeting.

“It was really cool,” Schulte said. “It was definitely an experience I will never forget, and for which I am very grateful.”

What happened next is the part left out of the heartbreaking videos. How does the player prove it to his parents? For advice, Schulte asked defensive senior Joe Evans, who was placed on scholarship in 2020. Evans told him the most rewarding part was telling his parents in person. So, Schulte left the football complex, hopped in his car and drove north about 30 miles to Cedar Rapids.

At Xavier, Duane Schulte coaches one of the strongest football programs in the state. Before splitting the top rankings based on scoring, he guided the Saints to the 2006 state championship. Since then, he has led Xavier to six more title appearances and three championships, including one this past weekend. On the morning of his son’s major achievement, Coach Schulte gave Xavier a morning drill and then got home around 10:30 a.m. and sat down with his daughter, Hope, and opened the front door.

Coach Schulte said, “We weren’t expecting anyone, and in walking Quinn. I’m like, ‘What are you doing here?’ And he’s like, ‘I just wanted to come up and tell you I got a scholarship.

“And I say, ‘Why did you do it like that?'” Then he said to me, ‘Well, Joe Evans told me that when he got the scholarship, he literally went to his parents’ house and told them they lived in person. So, I’ll do the same thing. That’s why I’m here.'”

Quinn Schulte intercepted Maryland in 2021 and added another this season against Illinois. (Greg Fium / Getty Images)

What makes this occasion revolving with love, tears and joy focuses on parental pride. It is compounded by the financial commitment families make to doing tasks that exceed the full cost of attending college. Years of cumulative expenses for camps, skills education, feeding, equipment, and road trips add to the joy.

“They obviously made a lot of sacrifices for me, and I’m very grateful,” said Schulte. “It feels good to know that you don’t have to worry about a lot of money for my school and my studies anymore.”

Schulte had one task left after telling his father. His mom, Sherry, was at work that morning, and he wanted to change her in person, too.

“I suggested he stop by McDonald’s and get a Diet Coke because she likes the McDonald’s Diet Coke fountain,” said Coach Schulte. “That’s what he did. He went to her office and told her, gave her a Diet Coke, and then drove back to Iowa City for more workouts. So, it was a very short trip, but to the point.”

Anyone who knows Schulte, or “Q” as he’s known around the football complex, understands that his conversations are based on an economy of words. He doesn’t talk much, but what he says has value. A pre-dental major, Schulte had a 3.73 GPA and was one of four Iowa players to earn College Sports Communicators Academic All-District Tuesday honors. His intelligence and tenacious nature translates to the field.

“One thing about Quinn, he’s so quiet, and he really cares,” said Defensive Coordinator Phil Parker, who also runs Iowa High School. “His dad is a high school coach and in the family tree as far as he’s around football all the time, it’s nice to have a guy who sees things, knows what’s going on. He can gather information pretty quickly.”

Iowa plays a zone-based coverage system designed with as many eyes as possible on the football. It enables Parker to incorporate strict guidelines on field geometry and physical properties. Talent alone does not elevate a player to the starting lineup; Toughness and understanding are vital. By nearly every metric, Iowa’s Philosophy works. Since 2015, the Hawkeyes have the most interceptions of any program with 130 and ranks fourth in yards per game allowed (4.7).

As a result, Parker’s reliance on the intangible provides participants with as many shots to play as their heavily recruited athletes. For more than 15 years, non-scholarship and two-star defensemen have thrived in Iowa’s defense. For six straight seasons, a narrow-minded high school walkout became a starting safety. In 2017-18, it was Jake Gervase from Davenport Assumption, who currently plays as a hybrid safety line captain for the Los Angeles Rams. From 2019-21, it was West Des Moines Dowling’s Jack Koerner who last year racked up the most solo tackles of any Iowa defensive back since Bob Sanders in 2002. And now, it’s Schulte.

But Parker gives Schulte perhaps the greatest comparison of all the defensive backs at Iowa: four-year starter Brett Greenwood (2007-10).

“Very similar to Brett,” Parker said. “I’d rate him on this thing. Very quiet. He doesn’t say much. Just go to work. He understands what you’re asking of him. He works for perfection. That’s what he’s trying to do.”

“Is he the elder man? No, and neither are the other comrades, is he? What does he do in his preparation and the manner in which he goes about his business, does he do it to the best of his power? He has done a good job indeed.”

Greenwood became a second-team All-Big Ten safety and had 12 career interceptions. In 2011, Greenwood suffered a heart attack during an NFL postseason workout and nearly died. After years of meticulous physical therapy, Greenwood led the Hawkeyes squadron in 2015, resulting in one of Kinnick Court’s greatest moments.

Along with their positioning in the zone, the safeties must display a hitting ability to play for Parker, a three-time former All-Big Ten. Listed at 6-foot-1, 208 pounds, Schulte is well-packed after gaining 25 pounds since arriving on campus. This year, he’s fourth on the team in tackles with 47 and has sacked receivers from the ball several times this season. Most importantly, according to Pro Football Focus, he only missed three tackles.

“Since day one, he’s always been such a locked-in person, focused, always asking questions, always wanting to know why we’re doing this or how we’re doing it,” said Kayvon Meriwether. “When he had the opportunity to show what he could do on the field and put out a product, he was always where he needed to be. He was always playing, always ending up in the right place. And I think he gained Coach Parker’s trust over time.”

Based on Schulte’s background, it’s not hard to see why Parker liked him from the start. As a multi-year quarterback starting at linebacker at Xavier, Schulte was 37-1 in his last three seasons with state titles at quarterback as a junior and senior. Each program holds a record for touchdowns and total offense per game, season, and career. He also played safety and intercepted 10 passes.

A four-sport athlete, Schulte won two state titles in basketball and one in baseball his junior year, as the season ended in late July.

“He just loves competition and loves work and effort,” said Coach Schulte. “His team won a state baseball championship Saturday night, and they had a team comeback celebration in Xavier at about 10:30 p.m. And then when that was over, he was at soccer camp in Iowa the next morning at 6:30. So, he had a break. For seven hours between his high school sports and being at camp, which is what he wanted to do. He didn’t say a word about it.”

Excelling in multiple sports, Schulte was not without scholastic opportunities. It was offered by the state of Northern Iowa and the state of South Dakota alike, and the state of Iowa invited it as a walk as well. But his older brother, Bryce, was a tight end at Iowa. The combination of playing alongside his brother and competing on a program he grew up in outweighed other options.

When he got to Iowa, Schulte hooked up with Koerner, who had done the same thing previously with Gervase. Their preparation and attention to detail allowed them to compete with novice athletes. Schulte joined the depth chart as a sophomore behind Corner and intercepted a Maryland pass late in the 2021 game. This year, Schulte’s only interception came at Illinois when he smothered an Illini drive at the 1-yard line.

“Coaches just give everyone a chance,” said Schulte. “You have to go out there and win whatever you can get. You just have to try to take the chances that you get. They may be a little or they may be a lot.”

(Top photo: Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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