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Former Gopher center John Michael Schmitz Jr. adapting to NFL

The Minnesota Gophers center was drafted in the second round by the New York Giants in April.
Image by Photo courtesy of Gopher Athletics
John Michael Schmitz Jr. on the Gopher football team. Schmitz recently joined the New York Giants.

The New York Giants selected John Michael Schmitz Jr. in April with the 57th overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft. The former Gophers center is now undergoing summer workouts with his new team in preparation for his first season of professional football.

Headed into the NFL draft, Schmitz was the highest-ranked Center by Pro Football Focus (PFF) and was the first center off the draft board. He was the highest-drafted Minnesota center since Brian Williams was drafted 18th overall in 1989. Coincidentally, Williams was selected by the New York Giants as well.

One of the biggest transitions a football player has to make is the move from college football to the NFL. Adjusting to the new scheme and the learning curve that comes along with the new system are just a few of the roadblocks that can cause a pile-up in development.

Gophers Head Coach P.J. Fleck sees it a different way, where the move from high school to college is the largest transition.With the amount of football Schmitz played at Minnesota, Fleck believes he is ready for the NFL.

“He’s gonna be just fine. The benefit of what he has done is that he is an older player, a grown man … Once you get to college, you play against 24-year-old grown men; once you hit the NFL, you’re all grown men, they’re all grown men,” said Fleck on the Official Giants Podcast Network. “He’s played against the Ohio State’s, the Michigan’s, the Auburn’s, the Penn State’s and he’s done it for six years.”

The Minnesota head coach is not the only person who thinks Schmitz is going to be successful at the next level. Former Minnesota Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman talked about his view of Schmitz on CBS.

“He was a high school wrestler coming out and, usually, if they have a wrestling background, that will equate to what they do upfront on the offensive line,” Spielman said. “There’s no question about his run-blocking ability. But what really surprised me is how well he did down in pass protection at the Senior Bowl.”

Not only do the Giants expect Schmitz to get playing time in his rookie season, but he is currently projected to be their starting center.

When asked about Schmitz’s learning curve heading into camp, New York Giants Offensive Line Coach Bobby Johnson replied in a media scrum. “I think that for [Schmitz], from a mental standpoint, the learning curve is minimal … He is a very intelligent kid. He is a quick study, and he works really hard at it.”

Not only does the style change from the Gophers to the Giants, but the complexity in the NFL is on a whole other level. 

Johnson has helped develop experienced linemen in his career, like Quenton Nelson and Dion Dawkins, who both have been voted multiple times to the Pro Bowl.

The bond between quarterback and center needs to be strong for any football team. Giants starting quarterback Daniel Jones and Schmitz seem to have gotten off to a good start in their relationship based on Schmitz’s Instagram post of the two of them sharing the practice field.

Overall, the Minnesota Gophers produced a high-quality center who is primed to help the Giants continue to win games and see post-regular season success, just as he did in Minnesota.

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