By Emily Geubelle
The Rocky Mountain Collegian
A Walk-On to Remember
People can change a lot in four or five years. Someone can go from being a 200-pound, 18-year-old boy to a 260-pound, 23-year-old All-American discus thrower. Someone can go from never throwing a hammer in his entire life to becoming a conference champion by his third year of competing.
This can happen and did happen for two CSU track and field athletes, senior Jason Schutz, 23, from Pagosa Springs, and junior Alex Godell, 22, from Littleton.
After a strong showing at the conference championships earlier this month, Schutz will head to Fayetteville, Ark., this weekend to compete in the national indoor track and field championship in the weight throw.
With such amazing accomplishments in their collegiate careers, one may think that it has always come easy for these guys, that they were naturally gifted athletes who didn’t have to work at their abilities. But this could not be further from the truth, and their story of success is definitely one to remember.
To talk with Alex and Jason, some people might be nervous to be in the presence of such phenomenal athletes, but they start cracking jokes almost immediately and the conversation is relaxed. They are both as real as you can get. Becoming an All-American and conference champion has not changed their attitudes.
The atmosphere is equally as relaxed as Jason settles down on the couch and Alex slouches in his desk chair. The walls are covered in various athletic memorabilia: an ancient discus, Barry Sanders’ jersey, high school throwing pictures and plenty more to satisfy any athlete’s decorating needs.
After chatting and joking around for awhile, Alex and Jason turn their conversation to track, and their amazing story unfolds.
Alex’s decision to come to CSU was as last-minute as you can get. After winning the 5A discus state championship his senior year, CSU throwing coach Brian Bedard talked to Alex and invited him to walk on the team. Already committed to and enrolled in classes at the University of Michigan, Alex changed his mind, made the switch and became a Ram.
Jason had planned to come to CSU, but was hoping to walk on the basketball team. When coach Bedard got a hold of him and invited him to walk on the track and field team, Jason decided not to play basketball and gave track and field a shot.
Jason and Alex both struggled their freshman year, which was filled with heckling from Bedard. a struggle to adapt to a new level of competition and several 6 a.m. workouts. Both thought at one time or another they might be cut.
“Coach was so mad the first time he saw me throw because I was the worst thrower on the team,” Jason said.
After having a natural ability to throw the hammer his freshman year, and almost setting the freshman record, Alex continued to improve each year and was conference champion by the time he was a sophomore.
Now as a senior, Alex has made himself into a weight room junkie, benching 435 pounds, squatting 625 pounds and power cleaning 386 pounds. Both his bench and power clean maxes are all-time bests for CSU track and field.
Jason had a successful meet his sophomore year in New Mexico, throwing the discus 178 feet, seven feet further than his high school best. And at that point, he felt like he made it. From there on, Jason only got better and in 2007, he took 8th place at the national track and field meet, making him All-American.
With all their success, Alex and Jason still have the ability to laugh and joke around about how terribly they started off, a real encouragement to athletes everywhere.
Jason’s advice to athletes who have gotten off to a rough start and to other walk-ons: “Just be patient. Period.”
Alex’s advice is more lighthearted. “Grow a beard because facial hair boosts confidence, intimidates competition, and gets you the ladies,” he said.
Remember that one guys.
With little success in the beginning of their careers, it would be hard to stay motivated and put so much effort into a sport with the possibility of complete failure.
Jason says that his motivation was, “the pursuit of stretch marks,” which athletes get from heavy lifting. “Plus nobody back home had ever been a Division I All-American before, and now no one has ever been a national champion,” he said.
Alex is motivated to compete because, “It scores you chicks,” he says, only half jokingly. More seriously he says, “God has given me a platform to share the gospel through my sport and this is what motivates me.”
Both laugh hysterically when asked if they’ve ever told a girl they were Division-I athletes to impress them.
Jason simply says, “No.”
Alex says he hasn’t used that line on a girl, but that he does wear his Speedo to pool workouts to impress all the ladies.
When asked if his tactics work, he just says, “You tell me.”
Both guys say they would not go back and change anything they’ve done when it comes to their decision about coming to CSU and that they owe a lot of their success to coach Brian Bedard.
“Coach Bedard is a very wise man with a middle school sense of humor and he is a strict disciplinarian. He has taught me about throwing and about life, too,” Alex said.
“When I came to CSU, I was a soft 18-year-old boy. In five years he turned me into a mentally tough competitive 23-year-old man. He is like a father figure to me,” Jason said.
With Jason graduating at the end of this semester, he has mixed feelings about being done. He is excited, but sad that he will not be with his teammates any more. He does hope to keep track and field a part of his life and would love to coach at a Division-I school, CSU if at all possible.
How does Alex feel about his friend and teammate of four years leaving?
“Sucky,” he says. “I feel like he’ll still be around, but it won’t be the same not having him as a teammate.”
Whatever may happen with the rest of their track careers, these two can look back at their terrible beginnings and remember how they got to where they are today and how successful they have become.
“We’re here now. No one knew about us, but we’re here now,” Alex said.