SCHENECTADY — Along with a number of coaches and players he covered, Gazette sportswriter Jim Schiltz is among this year’s inductees into the Capital Region Football Hall of Fame.
Schiltz, a member of the hall of fame’s 10th class in its “Service to Football” category for his years covering the Section II football scene, has worked at The Daily Gazette since shortly after graduating from SUNY Oswego in 1985. An Altamont native who now lives in Glenville, the 56-year-old Schiltz graduated from Guilderland High School in 1980.
Prior to Saturday’s 6 p.m. induction at Red Lion Hotel in Colonie, Gazette sports editor Michael Kelly spoke with Schiltz regarding his involvement with Section II football that first started when he was a player at Guilderland.
Question: How were you as a player?
Answer: I only played one varsity season, as a senior. I was no star. I played freshman, JV for two years, then varsity for one. I wasn’t a star, but I played hard. My coach — Bud Kenyon — is in the hall of fame, too. He was great. He motivated me. He was an old-fashioned guy. He was hard on you, but when you’re done, years later, you said, "He was great." That’s the way I’ve always thought about him. He was very much influential in terms of my work ethic — he stressed to work, work, work. Not winning. It was to continue to work, and let the results happen.
Q: What positions did you play?
A: I’m not a big guy. I’d played defensive end all throughout high school, but I got to varsity and I was 5-foot-10, 150 pounds — so I switched to secondary, which I loved. I also was a slotback, wide receiver. But, for me, what was really cool — and I loved it — was I didn’t play a lot, so practice was my playing time, and I felt really good because on the scout team I was the running back. I’d get killed in practice, but I was silly and I loved it. I didn’t play a ton, but I loved football and I loved practice.
Q: As a senior, you won your program’s “Greatest Desire to Improve” award. What was your reaction to that?
A: I cried when I got that. My dad didn’t attend any football games, but he went with me to that banquet and that was the greatest thing — to make my dad proud. In my family, we had five boys and one girl, and my dad worked a lot, so he didn’t attend a lot of sporting events; my mom went to all the events. But my dad took me to that banquet, and it was a great night because he was proud. That was a great moment for me.
Q: After college, you started as a clerk at The Daily Gazette before becoming a full-time sportswriter in 1987. How’d that come about?
A: My intent was always to write. I wanted to be a sportswriter, and a couple years into it, Butch Walker — our sports editor then — took me out for coffee. Some guys had left, some had moved up and there was an opening for high school sports. He asked me if I wanted to do it, and I was very excited. That’s what I’ve done ever since.
Q: Had your goal been to write about high school sports?
A: That just kind of happened. I wanted to write about sports, but I didn’t know where it would take me. I went to college with the idea of eventually writing for a newspaper. That’s what I wanted to do, and a month after college, I was working for a paper. But I do like high school sports. I like working with kids and the coaches generally have been great. I like to make people happy — as far as moms, dads, grandmas reading about their kids. That gives me a good feeling to give them a good feeling. At this level, you get to do that a lot.
Q: Best football games you’ve covered?
A: Wow. Gosh. There have been a lot of great games. A weird game I always remember was Mohonasen and Schalmont, back when they played all the time, and they had the 2-0 game. But best games? Gosh, I’ve seen so many. I will say, working with [Shenendehowa head coach] Brent Steuerwald was always special. I always thought it was great watching their Power I; it was a treat to watch Shen during those years, and Shenendehowa was in a lot of Super Bowls. But best games? Man, there’s been too many.
Q: OK — what about the best players you’ve covered?
A: That’s tough. Probably Josh Beekman, the Amsterdam lineman. He was absolutely fantastic. But there’s been a lot of great players. Joseph Girard III; I’ve never seen a quarterback do what he could with running and passing the ball. But, you do this for decades, you see so many great players. It’s hard to pick them all out.
Q: What was your reaction to your selection to the Capital Region Football Hall of Fame?
A: It’s so cool. It’s neat. I’d never thought about it. You don’t do this for recognition, but it’s nice to get it. This wasn’t expected and it’s not something I’d worked for, so it was a big surprise that I never saw coming. To be honored for the hard work is definitely cool. I worked a lot and sacrificed a ton.
Q: One final question. You have a trademark. Will you wear a Mets hat to your induction?
A: No. [Laughs]. With something like this, I won’t. Should I?