Cole Schneider is a worker, all his coaches agree. Riverdale wrestling coach Kris Hayward says the only evidence you need comes during the time you least expect it.
Sprints. Hayward says the 6-foot-3, 280 pound left guard for the Raiders football team, a high rising prospect in the college football recruiting world, finishes off training unlike most others, often winning sprints in the wrestling room over athletes half his size.
“He’s one of the top three finishing every single time,” Hayward said. “That pushes the other kids to work. And it gets the whole team invested and it makes the team better.”
It’s a small detail that makes Schneider an interesting commodity, a big man with quick feet. But Hayward and Riverdale head football coach Damon Jones say he’s even more than that.
The incoming junior, a starter on the offensive line as a sophomore and a state champion in wrestling, is a versatile athlete. He picked up a scholarship offer from Florida Atlantic University the day before his spring football game.
Jones says more are likely to come, as schools like Duke and Ohio State are beginning to take interest. Schneider is The News-Press’ No. 14-ranked football prospect in Southwest Florida.
“Cole is definitely a special athlete,” Jones said. “You look at his size. He’s one of those kids, I try to get (Hayward) to have him play basketball, because I think he could play anything. I think he could play baseball or lacrosse. He’s just naturally athletic and understands the games he’s playing.”
Schneider, 16, was too big for Pop Warner football when he was younger. In the 7th grade, he weighed 220 pounds. So he played soccer for nine years. “It was pretty fun,” he says. “I was knocking kids over and stuff.” He also picked up basketball and volleyball.
As a freshman, he wrestled and played football for the first time. In the fall, he learned the guard position under assistant coach Jack Gunn, who Schneider said was a big influence. Since then, the lineman has developed strengths in various schemes, improved footwork and learned the art of down blocking.
“I want to say, just muscle memory, it was difficult just trying to get used to everything,” Schneider said. “It was hard adapting to the sport, both wrestling and football. I’m still adapting to it.”
By his sophomore year, Schneider began to hit his stride. In his over-8 minute sophomore highlight tape, the left guard not only has a knack for down blocks, but also in finishing a play. He almost always drives his opponent to the ground until the final whistle.
He was critical in the Raiders’ improvement on the ground in 2014, helping the team double its production from 71 yards a game and six touchdowns in 2013 to 156 yards in 2014 with 20 touchdowns.
“He’s got good feet and hands, yes,” Jones said. “The wrestling helps there, but he’s a big, strong kid. He knocks kids off the ball.”
Strength isn’t a question. He recently eclipsed the 1,000 pound club in the weight room: 340 pound bench press, 415 pound squat and 280 pound hang clean. He has a shuttle time of 4.6 seconds and a broad jump of 8 feet, 7 inches.
But the mental capacity is also there, too. Jones believes Schneider has the ability to pick up coverages and blocking schemes quickly.
“He’s a smart athlete and he understands what people have to do,” he said. “He understands where guys are lining up and what techniques they’re using and pass rushing.”
Hayward said that quality, an ability to read plays and diagnose the ways in which to solve or fix them, is one that he doesn’t always see in high school players. As a sophomore, Schneider went 53-3 and won a state championship — it came a year after he went .500 as a freshman.
“I see it once in every five years in somebody,” Hayward said. “We have 80 kids in our program. We maybe get that with one in every 400 kids. He can dissect things. He can see it through a coaches point of view.”
That makes sense, considering Schneider has an uncle in Michigan who coaches football. Since his freshman year, Schneider has emerged as a talented prospect with a relentless passion.
He says that’s just part of who he is.
“I always want to be better,” he said. “I’m never happy with what I do. I want to be better. Because if I’m happy with what I do, I’m not going to work harder and get better.”
About The Big 15
Since July 3, The News-Press has published a profile on a standout football recruit every Tuesday and Friday. Players going into their junior and senior years were considered from both Lee and Collier County, with respect paid to those with hard scholarship offers and those without who possess great potential. The top 15 candidates were named and ranked, with the last story focusing on the very best recruit in Southwest Florida.