Austrian football pioneer targets NFL
Photo credit: Grant Horin, ISI Photo
At 6’7 ” and 300 pounds, Austrian defensive lineman Thomas schaffer knows how to attract the attention of coaches.
So now he hopes he’s caught enough of their interest to get picked up in the 2021 NFL Draft which begins Thursday April 29.
The old one Stanford the defensive lineman has completed his NFL Pro Day March 18e, where he showed his strength with an impressive 23 reps on the 225-pound bench press test. Schaffer prepares for what he hopes will be a NFL season to Cal Strength, a gym nearby Stanford Campus. The native Austrian is excited about the progress he has made in preparing for the next leg of his unique footballing journey.
“I can already see that I am way beyond what I was last season. The guy who was really good last season is a shadow of who I am at this point. It is exciting to see. I can see all the progress that I can still make and that I can much better. That’s what drives me right now.
This last season, the Schaffer shone as coming into Stanford University athletic defense. In six games, he had 20 tackles, four tackles for a loss and three sacks. The senior fifth-year team’s play on the field impressed teammates, opponents and coaches. Schaffer the massive jump from his fourth to fifth year had been in the works for a long time. After a Red Shirt season, with limited playing time and injuries in his first three seasons, Schaffer eventually made it through the rotation in 2019. The fourth-year racked up 13 tackles and his first career sack after finally getting some consistent shots. Schaffer took the momentum from its 2019 season and brought it back to 2020 despite the adversity of the pandemic.
“Each year I have made tremendous progress. I still don’t think I’ve achieved my best football yet, I was really at a disadvantage in some ways to be able to train. In the country of Santa Clara, we have not been able to lift or undergo essential physical therapy. “
Schaffer and the Stanford Cardinal. like many teams, were forced to face extreme adversity during the pandemic. Strict COVID restrictions in Santa Clara County, or Stanford University is located, made team training almost impossible for local athletes. Schaffer and his teammates had to get creative to keep improving during the uncertain times.
“A bunch of guys got together and ordered a squat rack and got weights and a barbell, really shitty stuff. We are talking about old rusty equipment. We actually used an ottoman as a bench. Lying on an ottoman at the bench. I did my best.
Stanford football players were initially told their season was canceled on August 11 before the Pac-12 conference changed its decision allowing teams to play. Pac-12 the teams then had four short weeks to prepare for the season. Due to strict COVID rules, Stanford players lifted weights outside in tents and even lived in a hotel for the last four weeks of the season in order to legally play and train, and of course all of their matches had to be played on the road.
“We lived in hotels for four weeks, taking buses to train wherever we could find them. We even took a virtual tour in a random park. So we couldn’t train, the teams couldn’t make it to Stanford, and they couldn’t train. The only option was to cancel everything again or get back on the road and play whatever games we had away from home.
Despite the extreme circumstances, Schaffer excelled in the shortened season, so much so that he was selected as player of the match twice and was named to the All-Pac 12 team.
Before you compete with the best in college football under the sun California, Schaffer was a confused and distracted 12 year old alive Vienna, Austria, struggles to cope with the loss of his father. Thomas and his brother found solace on the pitch after their cousin finally convinced the big Schaffer boys to try out niche sport soon after their father passed away.
“My brother and I needed something to get rid of our depression so we finally went with our cousin to soccer training and we loved it.
Schaffer his size and football instinct made him a quick learner. After two years of football with the Rangers Mödling, Schaffer was selected for the Austrian U19 national team at the age of 15, making him the youngest U19 national team player in the country’s history. The excellent coaching of Austria national team helped Schaffer continue to develop his game as a youngster.
“I went from a big body on the pitch to a guy who can actually play football.”
Schaffer travel with the Austrian the national team opened their eyes to the exciting world of college football. A trip to United States during the 2012 U19 World Championships, showed him the path he wanted to take.
“We went to the University of Texas for the U19 world championships. I saw the stadiums and the dormitories. I said it was amazing, I want to do this.
Back to Austria, Schaffer changed schools and enrolled in a sports academy in the south of Vienna appointed Liese Prokop Privateschule. There he saw another big jump in performance gaining 40 pounds of muscle. The new power-only intense training regimen Schaffer fire to improve.
“At that point, football became part of my identity.”
Schaffer cousin once again became a catalyst for his football career, because Thomas was introduced to a high school coach in the we through the football crazy family member. Needless to say, the coach was impressed with Schaffer build and glue. One thing led to another and Schaffer was soon on a plane to join his cousin in the United States.
He joined his cousin at Lake Forest Academy in Illinois where the great lineman dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage for three seasons. Schaffer the combination of size, aggressiveness and intelligence has drooled college coaches across the country. The old one Ranger Mödling developed in one of the Illinois 15 top players as he collected over 40 Division 1 offerings from powerful programs such as Oregon, Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and of course Stanford.
January 6the, 2016 Schaffer committed to Stanford University making him the first Austrian to play in the NCAA FBS Division 1 football. The combination of a winning football culture and excellent academics has attracted Schaffer to the famous Cardinal football program.
“It was a tough decision between Wisconsin and Stanford. I ended up choosing Stanford and that’s where my journey became a nerd … a football nerd.
Schaffer long trip like the first Austrian playing FBS college football paved the way for others Austrians do the same, like Bernhard Raimann, Thomas Aronokhale, and Valentinn Senn.
Schaffer on what it meant to be the pioneer of the future Austrian players.
“It’s great to be an ambassador for sport. I went to high school for several years. All of this before organizations did this like Gridiron Imports. I would have liked to have had this, but I guess I was the pioneer. Now we have guys who go to college and never play in the States. It’s really good, but there is a lot of pressure that comes with it, to be able to take it to the next level. It’s hard. I can’t just stop. I have to keep doing all of these unprecedented things.
During his five years at Stanford, the intelligent Schaffer has also proven herself in the classroom, earning her bachelor’s degree in economics and science, technology and society. He even supplemented it with a master’s degree in media studies.
Due to the shortened season of the pandemic, Schaffer could have gone back to Stanford for a sixth year of college football, but the combination of his academic achievements and the excellent 2020 season was enough for him to forgo his final year of college eligibility and declare himself NFL rough draft.
“What am I going to do to get a fourth degree from Stanford?” Go for a doctorate? Academically, I have nothing else to do. In football, my coach told me that I had played really well. In four games, I have become a player of the game twice. Overall, the coach believes my technique, size and strength are at the level needed to make the jump.
If the Stanford the product is found on a NFL roster come this fall, it will be only the third Austrian player to play in the NFL, and the first since 1982. The other two Austrian have been Toni Fritsch and Toni Linhart, both were kickers in the 1970s and 1980s for the Houston Oilers and Baltimore Colts, respectively. Schaffer in the same way NFL coaches see the huge advantage of the 6’7 lineman as a pro. After the Stanford the coaching staff encouraged him to pursue his dream in the NFL, Schaffer knew he was ready for the next level.
“I can really do this! It’s a legitimate move, I was good my coach thinks I’m good, I can play in the league, I can make the team. I just need someone who trusts me. They will be happy with me. I have taken another leap forward every year so far. In the next 2-3 years, I will still be able to do those jumps and be a very good player in the league. This is my motivation at the moment. Sky is the limit. I have this potential, a lot of guys have this potential, they never unlock it. I feel like I approach this every day.
Austrian football fans will support Schaffer the day of the draft because he will have the chance to be the first Austrian written in the NFL. Search Schaffer to continue to reach new limits as it slowly reaches its enormous potential.
The NFL Draft begins Thursday, April 29 and runs through Saturday, May 1.