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Geneva grad Schiller seeks more than a cameo with Atlanta Falcons

A former Geneva and Northern Illinois linebacker, Pat Schiller, is trying to make the Atlanta Falcons’ 53-man roster. He made five tackles during the team’s preseason opener against Cincinnati last week.
A former Geneva and Northern Illinois linebacker, Pat Schiller, is trying to make the Atlanta Falcons’ 53-man roster. He made five tackles during the team’s preseason opener against Cincinnati last week.

Pat Schiller reportedly flashed across the screen during this week’s episode of HBO’s “Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Cincinnati Bengals.”

A linebacker vying for a roster spot with the Atlanta Falcons, who hosted Cincinnati in the preseason opener Aug. 8, Schiller hopes the cameo concept only applies to cable TV.

Schiller went to training camp with the Falcons last season and spent only a few hours in his hometown of Geneva before the team wanted him back on its practice squad after the final cut.

The undrafted free agent’s late-summer days are heavily regimented, and he spends them working tirelessly knowing nothing is guaranteed.

“You’ve got to keep a positive mindset, because training camp is all about evaluation, and it’s hard figuring out where you stand in the mix of things,” Schiller said. “They’re in a tough evaluation process for the coaches right now, because they’re looking at everybody and seeing what they can do in certain situations and see how they react to it.”

Mission accomplished against the camera-savvy Bengals. Listed as a middle linebacker on Atlanta’s depth chart – he thrived at the position during his collegiate career at Northern Illinois – Schiller moved to weak-side linebacker for the preseason opener when starter Sean Witherspoon suffered a left finger injury.

Having played his share on the weak side during offseason organized team activities, Schiller simply adapted, recording five tackles while accumulating further confidence leading up to Thursday night’s preseason game at Baltimore.

The 6-foot-2, 235-pounder plays at about the same size he did in 2012, but feels more flexible after an offseason that included regular workouts at Batavia-based Pro Force Sports Performance Training.

“I think the biggest thing that the team wants is just for you to be able to move, and speed and quickness to the ball,” Schiller said. “As long as you have that and you have a decent weight on you, they really could care less how much you weigh.”

Schiller extended his brand of southern hospitality during his family’s recent visit to Georgia. He hosted his parents, Pat and Cathy, while pampering older sister Stephanie, who is seven-months pregnant. The trip marked his brother-in-law’s first time in Atlanta.

The Schillers stayed at their son’s gated apartment complex and mixed trips to the pool with visits to training camp in Flowery Branch, Ga., as well as the preseason opener.

“He had a good first game, a good amount of playing time and he felt he did well considering that they just told him two days before the game he’d be moving to outside after doing all that work at middle,” Cathy Schiller said.

Beyond Witherspoon, Akeem Dent and Stephen Nicholas, the Falcons’ linebacking corps lacks heavy NFL experience. Schiller is one of five hopefuls who have not appeared in a regular season game.

Still, Schiller knows he can take nothing for granted. Not his home. Not the pool, and certainly not the as-seen-on-TV No. 50 jersey.

So he isn’t.

“The biggest thing is keeping a positive attitude. You can only control what you can control,” Schiller said. “It’s a numbers game, so at the end of the day, you’ve just got to go out there and give it your best and try to put out the best film possible, because not only are you being evaluated by the Atlanta Falcons, but you’re being evaluated by all other 31 teams, and they all want your film, too.

“Hopefully at the end of the day, I’m with the Falcons, but if they choose to go another way, I believe that if I put good film out there, I’ll be somewhere, and they’ll see it.”

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