ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- It took Erik Gunderson a month to learn anything about his best friend at Michigan, Michael Schofield. Schofield’s bookend tackle, Taylor Lewan, is still learning new things daily about his redshirt senior classmate.
His offensive line coach, Darrell Funk, is just glad Schofield is talking now.
“He’s finally passed the 50-word mark in two years,” Funk said. “He said about eight words the first year. He’s up to a little over 50 now.”
Schofield, entering his second season as Michigan’s right tackle and third year starting on the offensive line, is the antithesis of the Wolverines’ more well-known, publicized left tackle, Lewan.
Lewan soaks in attention like a surfer hunts for the big wave. Schofield, by comparison, would stay on the beach. He has no interest in being in the spotlight. Michigan, per the school’s policy, said Schofield declined an interview request on behalf of his parents for this story.
“I’m kind of a shy guy in general,” Schofield said, and he used shy to describe himself every time he was asked. “I don’t really mind not being in the spotlight. I kind of like that Taylor is in the spotlight so I just kind of sit back.
“I don’t really mind at all.”
It’s why, on Michigan’s media day on Sunday, the 6-foot-7 Schofield crammed next to fellow offensive linemen Kristian Mateus and Gunderson on a bench, reporters occasionally approaching him. Lewan held court in a corner with multiple reporters and television cameras. Schofield noticed, shrugged and laughed.
He enjoys being somewhat unknown as Michigan’s other redshirt senior offensive tackle with NFL ambitions.
“I just recently started finding out things,” Lewan said. “I knew he had a huge family, dad is a firefighter. He wants to be a PE teacher. He doesn’t want that large and glamorous life.
“He just wants to live his life and be happy.”
Happiness for Schofield is surrounded by family, with four sisters, his parents and a younger brother, Andrew, who is an offensive lineman at the University of South Dakota. He never sought the spotlight as a kid with the crush of siblings around him. Even if he wanted it, he’d have to share it.
He hung with Andrew, competing at everything from checkers (Michael insists he’s better) to Super Smash Brothers on Nintendo 64, where Andrew’s Link usually destroys Michael’s preferred character of Pikachu the Pokemon.
The family life extends to the holidays the two middle Schofield children miss. With Andrew and Michael gone every Thanksgiving, their mother, Kathy, began a new tradition, now three years old.
“Schogiving” is a giant Thanksgiving party in either late July or early August, depending when the Schofield boys report to football camp. The party ballooned to 50 people this year with at least 15 pounds of pork tenderloin, a 35-pound turkey and a 20-pound ham. The food is prepared by Kathy in the Schofield kitchen.
“She kind of made up a holiday,” Schofield said. “She wanted to do it. Our whole family is there. She wanted to make a giant dinner and it became our entire family and friends.”
Kathy did this because fall Saturdays are spent following Michael and Michigan. At least one family member will usually attend Andrew’s games.
Over the past three seasons, the Schofields have seen their son mature from a first-time left guard to an NFL prospect at right tackle. Schofield realized the NFL was a possibility last season after he went up against Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt.
Then, in the Outback Bowl, Lewan cramped up and missed a few plays. Schofield slid from right to left tackle and hung in for a handful of plays against South Carolina’s superstar, Jadeveon Clowney. Those two performances helped give him NFL hopes as well.
It also forced Schofield to realize if he wanted to become a pro, he needed to focus on every opponent like he did Tuitt.
“My redshirt sophomore year, I would always get hyped playing the bigger-name guys,” Schofield said. “Then middle of last year I started to realize I had to dominate whoever I am going against.”
It is a lesson carrying into this season, where for the first time Schofield might go from anonymous bookend to a player recognized on his own merits. Not that it’ll change him at all.
“I’m not going to go out of the way to get attention, I guess,” Schofield said. “I’m just going to stay in the background and just do my thing.”