Pat Schiller spent approximately 22 hours in Geneva over Labor Day weekend.
He had designs on sticking around his hometown longer – the guy was on his way to look at new computers, after all – but received a welcome deflection Saturday afternoon.
The NFL’s Atlanta Falcons wanted him back.
Schiller recently signed with the Falcons’ practice squad after surviving all the but the last round of training camp cuts as an undrafted free agent linebacker. A Northern Illinois product, he hopes to don red, black and white again in the pros. That color scheme likely is part of the blur the whole family has been seeing lately.
“It was a wild circumstance and situation, really,” Schiller said. “The way the NFL works, it unfortunately comes down to numbers sometimes, and a lot of good guys get cut. I went into the waiting process and luckily had some good film in the preseason. My agent was pretty confident that I had that. I thought I’d maybe wait a few weeks or so and get picked up, then sure enough Atlanta called the next morning after cutting me.”
Pat and Cathy Schiller were just getting accustomed to the thought of having their son around the house again when the Falcons reached him on Saturday. The computer trip stalled in the driveway, as the family regrouped to get Schiller back to O’Hare Airport.
“I don’t know how often they do this, where they fly you home then send you back right away,” Cathy Schiller said. “But it’s awesome. We’re all so elated.”
For the duration of the Friday night drive from O’Hare to Geneva, the Schillers had little choice but to feel bittersweet. Pat Schiller shared voicemails from Falcons starting outside linebacker Stephen Nicholas and linebackers coach Glenn Pires that seemingly echoed the organization’s sentiment: While it was difficult to part ways with the high-motor Schiller – who tied for the team high with eight tackles in Atlanta’s preseason finale Aug. 30 at Jacksonville – there was no doubt he’d catch on somewhere soon.
That the locale happened to be the Falcons’ practice facility in Flowery Branch, Ga., hasn’t deflated football-mad Geneva, which happily charted Schiller and several other former Vikings as Huskies.
“He plays with such abandonment, and it fits in the NFL,” Geneva coach Rob Wicinski said. “He’s a practice player now, but he fits.”
Schiller’s training camp and preseason experience cemented his comfort among the Falcons. He since has shifted gears to feeling rooted in Dixie.
Along with their daughter, Stephanie, and her husband, Michael, the Schillers had planned to travel to Kansas City, Mo., for the Falcons’ season opener against the Chiefs on Sunday.
Upon learning that Schiller does not always travel with the team, the family made another change of plans, and is set to visit Atlanta this weekend to help Schiller get situated with his new apartment.
If it’s possible at this level, the Schillers would also like to make themselves known around other Falcons and their families.
“We were always sad when the Friday night lights was over [at Geneva], then to continue on with the Saturday football at NIU was very exciting, just keeping up and meeting more football families,” Cathy Schiller said. “We’ll see if the camaraderie is different now in the NFL with the age difference in players.”
Among his teammates, Pat Schiller senses that bond. Like a sloppy running play, it was slow in developing, but he’s glad it has emerged.
“At first it was tough,” Schiller said, “because when you get into a camp situation, everybody is pretty tough and on edge. Everyone is fighting for a job. This isn’t, ‘I’m going to sign up for football this year.’ It’s cutthroat; guys have mortgages and kids. We’re not always here to make friends, we’re here to make a living. Until that last day of cuts goes through ... that’s when it all opens up.”
And with it, an opportunity.
• Kevin Druley is a sports writer for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or firstname.lastname@example.org.