RENTON, Wash. — The wanderlust that once gripped Stephen Schilling has worn off.
In fall 2005, Schilling was a senior offensive lineman at perennial powerhouse Bellevue High, regarded as one of the “big three” must-get recruits for the University of Washington, along with Jake Locker and Taylor Mays.
Locker chose Washington but Mays and Schilling spurned the Huskies and coach Tyrone Willingham. Another coach recruiting all three was Pete Carroll, then at USC, who won a battle for Mays, a safety from O’Dea High.
Schilling chose Michigan, saying when he made his decision in January 2006 “the main thing is I wanted to get away and take advantage of my opportunities to do something different.”
Flash forward eight years, and Schilling—after five years at Michigan and three more with the San Diego Chargers.
After not being tendered a contract by the Chargers after the 2013 season, Schilling became a free agent. Ultimately, he just wanted a job in the NFL. When the Seahawks were the first team to offer him a contract shortly after the free-agent signing period began in March, there was no reason to wait.
Seattle currently has 15 offensive linemen and will almost certainly keep only nine or 10. Offensive-line coach Tom Cable said Schilling made a good early impression.
“There is a job there for him,” Cable said. “And I think it’s really kind of neat because of being from here and all that. His opportunity is pretty cool here, so I like what I’ve seen so far and he’s got a heck of a chance.”
In fact, both Schilling and Cable think Seattle might be a better fit for him than San Diego.
Schilling played for two head coaches there, neither of whom emphasized zone blocking—which puts more of an emphasis on footwork and agility—as much as does Seattle under Carroll and Cable.
“This suits my strengths a little bit more,” said Schilling, listed at 6 feet 5, 312 pounds.
Cable says “I don’t think there is any doubt” Seattle’s system is a better fit for Schilling, calling him “a mover.”
Cable has had his eye on Schilling since Bellevue. Cable was an assistant at UCLA and another who tried unsuccessfully to recruit him.
“He was one of the few guys I ever recruited that I thought was a no-brainer that was going to be a really good college player and have a chance to play after college,” Cable said. “That’s kind of held true. So now we are going to see if we can change him and add to his game a little bit and complete him a little bit more.”
Schilling’s post-Bellevue career has been far from disappointing, but also hasn’t exactly been the storybook some might have projected in 2005.
He started 49 of a possible 50 games at Michigan, but caught the misfortune of being there during some of the most turbulent times in the school’s football history. The Wolverines suffered their first losing season in more than 40 years when Schilling was a sophomore after Rich Rodriguez took over for Lloyd Carr, the coach who recruited Schilling.
“We had some rough years,” Schilling says. “But it was a good experience. I’m proud to say I am a Michigan man.”
He was a sixth-round choice of the Chargers in 2011 but lived precariously during his time there—he was cut and re-signed each of his three seasons in San Diego, starting two of the 18 games he played.
“It’s been a little up and down,” he said of his NFL career. “I’m hoping to find a place where I can make a team and stick around for a little while.”