Schlegel ready for action with OSU

Anthony Schlegel has a message for the overworked student-athlete, the poor young men and women who have to carry a full load and devote a minimum of 20 hours a week to their sport.

You don't know how good you have it.

"I have so much free time that I never had before," said Schlegel, the middle linebacker who transferred from Air Force to Ohio State. "I go to yoga. Now that I'm married, I get to hang out with my wife at home. I'm very fortunate."

When spring practice begins at Ohio State in April, the Buckeyes will lose the best scout-team middle linebacker in college football. That's a good thing for the Ohio State offense, because Schlegel will no longer disrupt their practices, and that's a really good thing for the Ohio State defense. With five starters gone from the front seven, Schlegel is not just some fourth-year junior who has been playing special teams and waiting his turn.

He started the last six games of 2001 as a freshman. In 2002, Schlegel led the Falcons with 118 tackles, 10 of them behind the line. That's the Air Force team that won its first six games and finished 8-5 with a 20-13 loss to Virginia Tech in the Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl. Three of the losses came to ranked teams.
Schlegel was the defensive MVP of the bowl. He also made first-team All-Mountain West. Then he hung up all of his Air Force uniforms for good.

Schlegel didn't believe he was some jock pretending to be a soldier. On a campus where the student body is made up entirely of men and women who have proven to be leaders, Schlegel co-captained the Falcons as a sophomore.

Schlegel said he didn't mind the military aspects of life in Colorado Springs. But he didn't care for a culture in which underclassmen are broken down and then remolded. The academies don't haze like they used to, but when you've got some pencilneck screaming at you for a fault only he discerned, it can get old.

"I thought I would go there to play and then become an officer," Schlegel said. "I was putting my leadership skills into action right away. I was captain of the team. As usual, I had no problem dealing with the football guys. . .I just had a hard time with some of the kids there. I really didn't like being able to yell at underclassmen just because they are underclassmen.

"When you're playing football, you didn't view each other (in military terms)," he added. "We referred to it as a brotherhood. That's how it is here. You talk to seniors here. They talk to everybody. We don't care what you are. Let's just win."

Schlegel is hardly a gentle giant, but he does see more than one world out the window. The 6-foot-2, 245-pound state prep heavyweight wrestling champion, who set national powerlifting records, also takes bikram yoga. That's the yoga performed in a room where the thermostat is set on July in Baghdad.

"Maurice Hall got me started," Schlegel said of the Buckeye tailback. "It's really good for flexibility. A few other guys have gone -- (linebacker) A.J. Hawk, (safety) Donte Whitner, (corner) Mike Roberts, (tailback) Branden Joe."

Schlegel grew up in Dallas, and was leaning toward returning near home and playing for TCU. Ohio State expressed an interest, and when the national champion calls, you pay attention. Schlegel hopped onto a plane.

"I really liked TCU," he said. "Now they're in the Mountain West. That would have been really weird, playing Air Force. Good thing I didn't go there."

As the middle linebacker on the scout team last fall, Schlegel's job was to play the scheme used by that week's opponent. That proved tough to do. If you have a nose for the ball, and recognize which hole to hit, why impersonate a player who is supposed to read and react?

"Coach (Jim) Bollman would get on me," Schlegel said, referring to the Buckeye offensive coordinator. "He would say, 'That's not how they do it.' I don't know how else to do it."

Saturdays proved difficult. Schlegel didn't even attempt to attend games. He gave his comps to his teammates and stayed home with his wife Stephanie and watched them on television. The last game he saw in person was the one he played in.

That will change when the Buckeyes open the season. Coach Jim Tressel hasn't released a depth chart yet, but it's hard to imagine that Schlegel won't be heavily involved in the Ohio State defense.

Schlegel has the chance to do what no linebacker has done before him -- not Dick Butkus, not Mike Singletary, not Lee Roy Jordan. No player that I could find has ever made all-conference in two I-A leagues. Only one turned up who had made all-conference on two teams. Minnesota halfback Bill Daley made it at Minnesota in 1941, then made the team again in 1943 -- as a Michigan fullback. Daley had enlisted and been assigned to a base in Michigan.

Schlegel isn't assigned to a base anymore, with the exception of Camp Tressel. He reports for active duty in April.

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your question/comments to Ivan at ivan.maisel@espn3.com. Your e-mail could be answered in a future Maisel's Mailbag.