As big a fan as Mike Zegunis was of Dalton Schoen, the former high school wide receiver coach admits he wasn’t sure what the future held for his prized wide receiver after graduation.
“I think with his work ethic and commitment to excellence, I’m not surprised by that. But I, probably like many other people, didn’t see it coming. I didn’t expect that,” the former Blue Valley Northwest coach said in Overland Park, Kansas, on the phone this week.
“You always hope for good things to happen to good people. But I’ve coached long enough and been around enough athletes to know what I could wish for, and what I could want doesn’t always come true. That’s why it’s a really cool story.
This year, Winnipeggers are discovering what those on the Kansas State University campus discovered from 2016 to 2019: This little-known football player is pretty good.
A walk-on at Kansas State, all Schoen did was lead the team in receptions in his senior year while serving as team captain en route to a Liberty Bowl berth.
Now, after arriving in Winnipeg with little fanfare, Schoen is an integral part of an 8-0 Blue Bombers team. The six-foot-one, 218-pound Schoen is third in the league in receiving yards after having eight catches for 80 yards and two touchdowns in a thrilling 35-28 win over the Calgary Stampeders last week. He now leads the CFL with six touchdown receptions.
“Dalton continues to defy the odds,” Zeguins said. “That’s the most interesting thing about it. Still a hard worker and just an outstanding young man. The type of kid you always rooted for. You knew things were stacked against him to go and play football Division 1 and walking is not an easy thing to do. Having the career he had at K State was really fun to watch. Being able to get the chance to play professional football is also amazing.
Because Schoen didn’t have blazing speed, Zeguins said it was difficult for him to attract much college interest despite having a stellar high school career — he broke the Kansas high school record for receiving yards in a game with 380 in 2014 and was the 2015 Kansas City Star Male Scholar of the Year.
While he may not be the fastest man on the pitch, he clearly knows how to open up – as he has done throughout the year to help the Blue Bombers overcome some injuries at the receiving end.
“Dalton right after camp, you could tell there was something about him,” Bombers offensive coordinator Buck Pierce said. “His college recording and some of his NFL work, we were excited to bring him into the building. He took all the reps in camp, played several places, showed himself in good shape and didn’t miss a beat. Very high soccer IQ. He’s getting better every week and understands the CFL game and understands how to play catcher. It was awesome to see.
After a few years in NFL camps or practice rosters with the Los Angeles, Washington and Kansas City Chargers, Schoen’s agent suggested he try his hand at the CFL. Assistant general manager Danny McManus first noticed Schoen during a visit to the Chiefs’ camp and after his agent set him up for a phone call with the former CFL quarterback, the cogs were on the move.
Yet there were no guarantees.
“I was kind of focused on controlling what I could control,” said Schoen, a mechanical engineering graduate. “Being as prepared as possible every day. It’s tough when you come to training camp and you’re a rookie. You are somehow moved down the list. You can’t think too long term or get too caught up in where you are on the depth chart and stuff like that. The most important thing is to control my process and do your job every day and do your best every day and drop the chips where they can in the end.
As Zach Collaros’ primary target, Schoen appears to be the favorite for CFL Rookie of the Year. Collaros, Schoen and Hamilton Tiger-Cats wide receiver Jaelon Acklin were named CFL Players of the Month for July this week.
Back in Kansas, Zegunis loves what he sees on social media.
“He could run away from kids in high school, but I don’t think people thought he would be able to run away from guys in college. Obviously, he did. He proved to them that they had Wrong. I’ve seen Twitter clips of what he’s doing up there. He’s always running away from people and scoring touchdowns. It’s really fun to watch.
What we liked about week 8
• Another spectacular outing by BC Lions quarterback Nathan Rourke. The Canadiens completed 27 of 33 passes for 336 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Saskatchewan.
• Blue Bombers-Stampeders game. It was billed as the game of the year so far in the CFL and it delivered.
• The Ottawa Redblacks win their first game of the season. So tight in many games in a 0-6 start, the Rouge et Noir had plenty of points for their 23-13 win in Toronto over the Argonauts.
What we didn’t like about week 8
• The mess that is the Argos, even though it actually leads the East. Coaching, quarterbacking, front office work… it all seems less than stellar right now.
• The unfortunate end of the Alouettes-Tiger-Cats game when concussion observers ordered Montreal quarterback Trevor Harris off the field for the final game after suffering a hard blow. It was the right decision, but nobody wants that to happen. The Ticats intercepted Dominique Davis’ final pass in the end zone to hold on to a 24-17 victory.
Week 9 Picks
Winnipeg Blue Bombers (-5.5) vs. Montreal Alouettes, Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET / 4:30 p.m. PT
Short week for the Blue Bombers, who played Saturday night in Calgary and are on the road for a third straight game. Also the opener of a home and away series. CHOICE: Winnipeg
Calgary Stampeders (-5.5) vs. Ottawa Redblacks, Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET / 4:30 p.m. PT
While the Redblacks are building momentum after a win in Toronto, the Stampeders provide a much tougher level of competition. CHOICE: Calgary
Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Toronto Argonauts (-2), Saturday, 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT
This is the first of four games between the clubs in less than a month (game four is the annual Labor Day showdown). Great rivalry, but spread it out a bit, CFL. CHOICE: Toronto
Edmonton Elks vs. BC Lions (-11.5), Saturday, 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT
Elks GM/trainer Chris Jones was busy shuffling his roster over the bye week. The Lions crushed the Elks 59-15 in Week 1 in Vancouver, but Edmonton has been much more competitive since then. CHOOSE: British Columbia
Record 2022: 16-15 after a 4-0 Week 8!
(FanDuel odds from Wednesday)
1. Winnipeg Blue Bombers (8-0, last week: 1): The two-time defending Gray Cup champions reached the halfway point Thursday, looking like the team to beat again.
2. BC Lions (5-1, last week: 2): Rebounded from a 17-4 deficit in Saskatchewan, one of the toughest places for teams on the road.
3. Calgary Stampeders (4-2, last week: 3): Fought to the end against the Blue Bombers.
4. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (2-5, last week: 6): 2-1 the past three weeks with just one loss in a close game in BC The two-time defending Eastern champions could turn the page.
5. Saskatchewan Roughriders (4-4, last week: 5): Have lost three straight, struggling with COVID, discipline and injury along the way. Good time for a goodbye.
6. Toronto Argonauts (3-3, last week: 4): A nasty home loss to Ottawa tightened things up in the East.
7. Ottawa Redblacks (1-6, last week: 9): Quarterback Caleb Evans has been solid in Toronto as he continues to replace injured Jeremiah Masoli.
8. Edmonton Elks (2-5, last week: 8): With the Roughriders down, a playoff berth doesn’t seem impossible for Edmonton.
9. Montreal Alouettes (2-5, last week: 7): The loss to Hamilton was costly as it allowed the Ticats to edge Montreal (by virtue of a tiebreaker) in the race for second. place in the CFL East.