March Brings New Team, New Family Role, Responsibilities for Jacksonville LB Joe Schobert
New team. New contract.
In a span of six days, Joe Schobert became a father and agreed to become a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars. However, he did not anticipate the former as quickly.
"Simon’s due date wasn't until April 3 so we weren't really expecting him to come during free agency like that," Schobert told AllBadgers.com on Thursday afternoon. "We were hoping to have it figured out before the baby became but (he) came three weeks early and everything went well and smoothly."
Schobert and his wife, Megan, welcomed Simon on Friday, March 13. Mama and baby are both doing well, and they stayed in the hospital until the following Sunday.
Then Monday the 16th hit, and while working to adjust to becoming new parents, the professional side of his life kicked back in. According to the NFL's calendar, teams were now "permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with, the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2019 player contracts at 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 18."
A day of phone tag with his agent began.
“He's calling team, teams calling him. He's calling me, updating me on situations," Schobert said. "Monday was a really long day for that because I wanted to take a nap a lot during the day, but I really couldn't because I had to be on alert for phone calls and changing situations.
“I think but by the end of Monday night, we had it narrowed down to like two teams. The Jaguars and the Bengals were the ones who really wanted me to come over there and willing to out pay the other teams. Then I think on Tuesday, kind of slowed down a little bit, just going back and forth between the two. I ended up talking to some coaches from the teams and ended up picking Jacksonville as the preferred spot to go.”
Schobert stated that the AFC South franchise was one of the teams that expressed the most interest in him, and that they wanted him to come play middle linebacker. He reached out to his peers to do some more research on his potential new home.
"Then I contacted some old teammates and friends who have played in Jacksonville or are still playing in Jacksonville and asked them what they thought about the organization and the coaches and the defensive staff and stuff and heard a lot of good things about how they run their stuff down there," Schobert said. "That was one of the key contributors for me for a reason I chose to go there.”
Being a free agent and now a dad, Schobert noted it was stressful at first to start that Monday, acknowledging that five or six teams called to inquire. By the end of the day, however, the list eventually whittled down to the Bengals and Jaguars.
"It wasn't too stressful from there," Schobert said. "It was just trying to figure out back, 'Where are we gonna live? What are they offering?' All the contracts are different years, different lengths, different payments ... signing bonuses, all that stuff. Just figuring out what's best for us and the family and where we want to be and where we want to live and who we want to play for and stuff, it was a little bit stressful. But at the end of day, I'm glad I had a couple options and I was able to pick a spot, and I feel good about where we're gonna go.”
Originally the first pick of the fourth-round in the 2016 NFL Draft, Schobert emerged to become one of the league's leading tacklers with the Cleveland Browns. According to NFL.com's stats, the linebacker has recorded 100 or more tackles in the past three seasons.
In 2019, his 133 stops ranked 10th in the NFL. Two seasons prior to that as a second-year player, he finished tied for first along with Green Bay's Blake Martinez and Buffalo's Preston Brown with 144. For that matter, Schobert also recorded a career-high four interceptions in 2019 that showcased his pass coverage skills.
Now he is set to leave the AFC North franchise that selected him and gave him a chance to head south. Jacksonville officially announced that the linebacker had "agreed to terms to a five-year contract" on March 19. He noted the difference between the NFL life and the college game, where for the latter, many stay and become part of a program for a set number of years.
“But then you get to the NFL and people bounce back and forth every year. To be on the same team for an extended period of time is an oddity rather than a regularity, so it's definitely different for me." Schobert said. "Four years in Cleveland, I'll always be thankful for them for bringing me into the league, and obviously, there's a little bit (of) sense of comfort where you're somewhere for a four-year stretch of time.
"You know the city. You know your drive to work. We had different coaching staffs, but there's a lot of the trainers and the strength coaches and everybody was pretty consistent throughout the time. You have a sense of familiarity with it all. It's a little bittersweet leaving, but me and wife are excited for the next step, the next chapter and a new team in Jacksonville and see where things take us.”
For now, the Schoberts are staying by Megan's parents as the state and nation work through the COVID-19 pandemic. In a perfect world, Joe admitted they would hopefully be down south looking for a new home and planning their move from Cleveland. For now, they have reached out to a realtor and started searching online while adjusting to parenthood with their baby boy.
The pandemic and state's stay at home orders have also affected his workout schedule, where he performs his lifts at his in-laws' house and alone rather than going to a gym or his old stomping grounds at Waukesha West High School. He still puts in the time despite the acclimated conditions.
"I'm still getting good work in," Schobert said. "It's by myself so it's a little bit harder to stay motivated or motivated to put yourself through it more, but I think a good professional athlete or a good professional understands that and is able to kind of work through those things.
"Like I said, there's really nothing else to do on a day-to-day basis so I'm able to get all that stuff in. It's just obviously I can't go and work out at the local gym here at NX Level or at my high school or anything like I've done in the past where they have a lot more things available for you to do. The set up in the basement is good enough for me to get the basic lifts in, and I can go to a field right down the street from my in-laws' house and go run and do the stuff I need to do and make sure I'm staying on top of it."
Ed. note, 2:15 p.m. CT: AllBadgers.com updated the article to clearly state that Schobert agreed to terms of the five-year deal with the Jaguars.