Former Hawkeye Kyle Schlicher still hopes for a chance to kick professionally.
Until then, he’s training Navy SEALs.
Schlicher, 27, has spent the last three years as a strength and conditioning coach for the Naval Special Warfare BUD/s (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) School at the Great Lakes U.S. Naval Base in Illinois.
He puts new Navy Seal candidates through a 10-12 week workout program to prepare them for their next phase of training in Coronado, Calif.
The goal of the program, Schlicher said, is to “try to take a regular ‘Joe Schmo’ and make him into as rounded of an athlete as possible.” The workout focuses on strength building, power, muscular endurance, and agility.
The Ankeny, Iowa, native was the Hawkeyes starting kicker for three seasons (2004-06), scoring 260 points during that span. Faced with the difficult task of replacing Lou Groza Award-winner Nate Kaeding, Schlicher hit 51 career field goals during his Hawkeye career — third-most in Iowa history — and earned second team All-Big Ten honors in 2005.
Despite his success as a collegiate kicker, few professional teams came calling after Schlicher graduated from Iowa. He received a call from the Baltimore Ravens on the final day of the 2007 NFL Draft, but the team never followed up on its call.
After recognizing he couldn’t wait around for a shot in the professional ranks, the health and sports studies major moved to Chicago with his wife where he started working at his current job.
Although he didn’t realize it right away, Schlicher said the knowledge imparted on him by Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle played an influential role in his current career. It wasn’t until he began studying for the test to be a nationally-certified strength and conditioning coach that Schlicher fully grasped how much of the material he had already learned from Doyle during his Hawkeye career.
“Coach Doyle definitely influenced me to become a strength and conditioning coach,” Schlicher said. “I can’t think of a time when I wasn’t thinking about him and the impact he had on me in the weight room.”
Football still remains a large part of the former kicker’s life. There isn’t a day that goes by where Schlicher doesn’t think about his Hawkeye football career, he said.
With a pro turf field on site at the Naval base, he’s still able to practice kicking. He had a tryout with the Chicago Rush of the Arena Football League and was in line to be the backup kicker, but economic issues forced the league to cancel the entire 2009 season.
Since then, he has participated in free agent tryouts, kicking combines, and other evaluations in hopes that a team may give him a chance.
“I’m still knocking down 55-60 yarders,” Schlicher said. “I’m still very consistent, I’m just lacking game experience. That’s a big factor.”
Gary Zauner, a Special Teams coach in the NFL for 13 seasons, worked with Schlicher in June 2009 and said he “looked pretty good.” Zauner invited the former Hawkeye to his free agent kicking combine in March 2010.
“He still had good pop in his leg, good explosion,” the veteran special-teams coach said. “He seemed to have the accuracy that you would need, too.”
Zauner noted how difficult it is for an older kicker with no playing experience to get exposure. As more kickers come out of the college ranks each year, the older kickers get forgotten.
There are exceptions to the rule.
After being cut by New Orleans in 2006, Drake graduate Billy Cundiff was taking business classes at Arizona State and working as an unpaid intern a venture capital firm. The Ravens took a chance on Cundiff and signed the journeyman kicker in 2009. One year later, he’s representing the AFC in the Pro Bowl.
So Schlicher holds onto his dream. One day, he hopes to get a call from a professional squad. Schlicher’s father, Ray, who recently passed away, always told his son that as long as he can still kick, he should keep trying. “You never know when you might get that call,” his father used to say.
Until then, Schlicher is a kicker for hire. He has a personal website set up that includes college stats, a brief bio, and videos highlighting his kicking skills.
“If I ever did get the call, I would do it just so I’d be able to say that I got a chance,” he said. “It would be much different if I turned that down and said coulda, woulda, shoulda. If I can still physically do it, there’s no sense in stopping.”
But if that call doesn’t come, Schlicher wouldn’t mind following in Doyle’s footsteps.
While he enjoys his job, he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life prepping Navy Seals for combat. He views his current work as just another credential on his resume when applying for a coaching gig.
“I’d like to give back to the collegiate level. Especially football,” he said. “Football was such a big part of my life.”