Mike Schmidt doesn’t need a larger role to find contentment.
The Air Force senior quarterback has everything he wants at the academy. He knows his degree will open opportunities in his future. He loves his teammates. And this former three-sport athlete scratches his competitive itch in practice.
“This is just an unbelievable opportunity,” Schmidt said. “I am blessed to be in this position, even if I’m not going to be the guy. This is my calling.
“I love it.”
Air Force players react to the lingering disappointment from Saturday's loss at Navy as they turn the page to Fresno State.
But Schmidt’s role could change in an instant. With senior backup quarterback Isaiah Sanders out with an unspecified leg injury for several weeks, Schmidt would take over the offense should Donald Hammond III go out with an injury.
Hammond already missed roughly one quarter at Boise State last month, and last year he didn’t go the full way in two of his five starts — continuing an injury-induced revolving door at the position for a program that has started multiple quarterbacks for seven consecutive seasons.
“I want (Hammond) to play and stay healthy and play the whole year,” Schmidt said. “I want Isaiah to get healthy. ... Just to be in the mix with those guys is an honor for me to even be a backup for them because these guys are great athletes. But to get a shot as a senior would be awesome. But at the same time I’ve known my role over the years. If my role is just being a backup and just being ready, I’m always going to be on my toes; always going to be ready. I won’t make the moment bigger than it should be and just go out there and operate and do what I do in practice every day.”
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Schmidt showed some sneaky speed in a fall scrimmage, breaking a run for about 50 yards. He said he considered himself more of a throwing quarterback when he came out of high school and opted for football over baseball in college. But over time he said he has “grown to love the triple option.”
“He’s one of our best runners,” senior receiver Geraud Sanders said. “He’s a big, physical dude. I have no problem if he came in to run the offense. He throws a great ball. Baseball players always have a great ball. So I don’t think there’d be a falloff at all if Mike came into the game.”
Two years ago against Utah State, Isaiah Sanders was forced off the field for one play in the final 5 minutes with the Falcons trailing 35-31. Schmidt came on for the third-and-4 play from the Utah State 44 and executed a fake toss and then pitched to Tim McVey for a 5-yard gain and a first down. The Falcons then finished the drive with a touchdown, winning 38-35.
“It was one of those where I had repped it a million times in practice and coach was like, ‘Are you ready to run this play?’” Schmidt recalled. “I was like, ‘I’m definitely ready to run this play.’
“I just had to settle in a little bit. It was awesome, that was a great experience.”
Schmidt’s only other game action has come in mop-up time during season-opening victories over Virginia Military Institute in 2017 and Colgate earlier this season.
The Fletcher, N.C., native knows there’s the possibility he could be called upon again this week against Fresno State. It was against the Bulldogs in 2016 that Air Force turned to Arion Worthman as an injury replacement early in the second half. Worthman led a comeback victory in that game and the Falcons won the final five games of the season with him at quarterback.
“I’m just trying to be that guy they can lean on and always trust if that were to happen,” Schmidt said.
“I’d love to be out there with my brothers and my senior class. It would be cool. But we’ll see.”