Name: Pat Schiller Age: 24Tie to Kane County: Grew up in GenevaWhat makes him intriguing: A 2007 graduate of Geneva High School, Schiller is now on the practice squad of the Atlanta FalconsWords To Live By: “Don’t let anyone put limitations on what you can accomplish.” — Pat Schiller
Since fourth grade, Pat Schiller has played football.
Even as a youngster, he knew he wanted to play in the NFL.
“I think as a little kid, I kind of always thought it would be awesome to be a professional football player, but it’s one of those things that’s a dream of yours,” the 24-year-old says.
Today, he’s making his dream come true.
The 2007 graduate of Geneva High School — who went on to play linebacker at Northern Illinois University on a full-ride scholarship, started three years and became captain — is on the practice squad for the Atlanta Falcons, who, at the time of publication, had a 9-1 record in the NFL.
It might be a dream come true to be part of such an organization, but it wasn’t an easy road, Schiller says.
“I’ve always kind of been the underdog,” he says, noting that he shares this story with high schoolers and college players. “[People would tell me], ‘You’re kind of too small, too slow.’ What I have to say to that is don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do something. Don’t let anyone put limitations on what you can accomplish.
“I’m a prime example,” he continues. “I’m 6’2”. It would have been way better [if I was taller]. If I ran a 4.6 or 4.7[-second 40-yard dash], that’s fast, but they would have rather seen a 4.4. I was always doubted. In high school, I remember my freshman year, I said I wanted to play Division I football. One of the older varsity guys found out and said, ‘There’s no way you’re ever going to be big enough or fast enough to play in college.’ And I just looked at him and said, ‘Well, I’m going to do it.’”
Even after a stellar college career, there were doubters who never thought Schiller could play in the NFL. Still, he signed with an agent after graduating and trained for two months until the NFL draft. While he didn’t get drafted, he was signed as a priority free agent by the Falcons and participated in rookie mini camps, making it through all of the cuts until the final day.
“I came down to the final cut day, and they cut me actually,” Schiller says. “I flew home after our last [day] … and the next morning, I wake up in Geneva, and I get a phone call from the Falcons saying they wanted me back. “I didn’t even unpack my bags.”
The opportunities he’s had thus far as a member of the practice squad have been incredible, Schiller says, including playing in the Falcons’ preseason game.
“I’ve gotten to play in places I never dreamed possible, meet coaches that are just legends — it’s an unbelievable experience,” he says.
And while he may be an inactive player now, he could get activated at any time and play in a regular season game, he says.
It’s still adversity — both on and off the field — that he thrives on, he says.
“Keep doubting me, and I’m going to keep proving you wrong.”