Oct. 18, 2011
By Jeremy Powers
University of Cincinnati senior linebacker JK Schaffer wasn’t highly recruited when he was in his senior year at LaSalle High School in Cincinnati.
Aside from a couple of Mid American Conference schools, no football programs were calling the First-Team Associated Press Division I All-Ohio selection’s name. That’s why when his hometown Bearcats offered Schaffer a chance to play BIG EAST Conference football, he never looked back.
“All through the recruiting process I wanted to stay home and play for UC, but they weren’t sure if they going to offer me a scholarship,” Schaffer said. “When I got that offer from UC I took it right away because this is where I wanted to play. I wanted to stay at home and play in front of my family.”
Now playing for the city of Cincinnati as a whole, Schaffer knows what it means to have the C-Paw on his helmet and Cincinnati on his chest. Not even making an effort to get recruited by bigger local programs such as Ohio State, Schaffer knew the choice was red and black even if the scarlet and grey had come calling.
“I’m the type of person that always goes with my gut feeling and my gut feeling was that I wanted to play here,” Schaffer said. “Ever since coach Coombs started recruiting me I told him that I want to be a Bearcat, I want to be a Bearcat.”
Now the leader of a defense that is tied for the NCAA FBS lead with 18 takeaways, Schaffer is able to dominate his role using experience and learning from some of the great UC defensive players that he played with in the past. Andre Revels, also a local product (Colerain HS), taught Schaffer a great deal about what it’s like to be the leader of a defense. The two still talk football on a weekly basis.
“I’ve learned from some great players when I came in my freshman year,” Schaffer said. “Guys like Ryan Manalac and Andre Revels especially. Rev was a senior when I was a sophomore and that was my first year starting, so everything I know I learned from him.”
Schaffer has always been ridiculed as being under sized at the linebacker position. However, his success at every level of football has proved otherwise. From early success at LaSalle to the past few years at UC and now his transition to possibly playing on Sundays, Schaffer will has continued to prove the naysayers wrong during his whole career.
“The people that told me I couldn’t play college football is what drove me the most at the beginning of my career,” Schaffer said. “One of the driving forces my entire life has been proving people wrong.”
While a Lancer, Schaffer was honored as the GCL Linebacker of the Year after amassing 150 tackles, including 95 tackles for loss and 13 sacks. At LaSalle, Schaffer set school records for sacks in a season, tackles in a season, and most tackles in a single game.
“JK means a lot to this program,” offensive lineman Evan Davis said about his former roommate and close friend. “He represents Cincinnati and he does everything by the books and he is a great player on the field.”
Schaffer leads Cincinnati in tackles, passes defended and interceptions this season. Depending on how the rest of this season plays out for the Bearcats, there could be a lot of memorable moments for the seniors and Schaffer especially. No moment, however, has been as special to Schaffer as the BIG EAST Championship clinching win at Heinz Field against Pittsburgh during the 2009 season.
“Everything was on the line. Everything that we had worked for that whole entire year, that whole season, it all came down to that one game,” Schaffer said. “The snow was falling, it was a packed Heinz Field, sold out crowd on ESPN and we ended up pulling it out. That was definitely the most memorable game. I will never forget that.”
Certain moments also sum up Schaffer’s career as a Bearcat. Whether it was his bone-chilling hit on a Syracuse player near the sideline or his one-handed interception against powerhouse Oklahoma at Paul Brown Stadium, Schaffer remembers an abundant amount of plays that are all important to his career.
“There have been a lot of plays that I won’t forget,” Schaffer said.
With his future in waiting, Schaffer has made it known that he must focus on his team winning this season before he can think about his possible future in the NFL. His great work ethic makes him a hot commodity at the next level. Whether it is special teams, transitioning to a new position, or continuing his career at linebacker, Schaffer says he will be grateful for any team that gives him a chance.
“I just hope somebody gives me a shot and it’s up to me to have a good rest of the season and be productive,” Schaffer said. “I know if someone in the NFL gives me a shot that I will make the most of that opportunity.”
Schaffer added that he would love to play for the Bengals at the next level because they are his hometown team and he has been a fan growing up. Past Bearcats have been given shots by the Bengals; most recently, the Bengals signed wide receiver Armon Binns after he completed his eligibility for the Bearcats. Schaffer would be happy to play for any team that is willing to give him a shot.
“I would play anywhere they asked me to,” Schaffer said. “I’d put my hand in the dirt and play nose guard if they wanted me to or even move back to safety.”
Schaffer may not get his number 37 retired with the other greats from UC, but he will always be remembered for his role on undefeated teams, BCS games, and being a true Bearcat.