BEREA — Chris Schubert has spent his entire life as a Browns fan in Lorain County.
After Friday, good luck convincing him Browns headquarters is only 27 miles from Oberlin College.
“The difference is huge, huge,” Schubert said. “Guys here run 4.3s (in the 40-yard dash) whenever they feel like it.”
Schubert went to Oberlin High School before setting numerous receiving and kick returning records at Oberlin College. The Browns called Sunday night after the draft and offered him a chance to try out this weekend at rookie minicamp, where he joined Cleveland’s five draft picks, 15 free agents and 53 other tryouts.
“You may have torn apart Division III, but when you come here, it’s a whole new level, a whole new game,” he said. “It’s head and tails above the speed of Division III.”
Schubert was wearing the Browns’ classic white jersey, No. 28. He had brand-new gloves and looked the part of professional football player — even at 5-foot-8, 183 pounds.
Schubert was surrounded by receivers from schools like Wisconsin (sixth-round pick Paul Hubbard), Florida State (tryout Joslin Shaw) and Miami (free-agent signee Lance Leggett) and would often get lost in the mass of humanity waiting for his chance to run a route.
He didn’t mind.
“I’m just living it up,” he said. “It’s something I dreamed for forever.”
Schubert took his turn during receiver drills, catching passes from no-name quarterbacks Craig Hormann and Rich Kovalcheck. Schubert looked natural catching a slant and reached high to snare an out route. He leaped to no avail on another out when the pass sailed out of bounds.
Schubert also took a few repetitions at returner, which would be his best bet to catch on with the Browns or another NFL team. He was four-time All-North Coast Athletic Conference.
“That’s the thing that will help him the most,” Oberlin coach Jeff Ramsey said. “Chris sees the field well and knows where guys are going to be.”
Schubert holds nearly every Oberlin return record, setting most as a junior, then breaking them as a senior. He averaged 21.6 yards on kickoff returns and 11.2 on punts as a senior, scoring a touchdown each way.
Schubert’s quickness is a vital asset in the return game. It’s also his best hope for overcoming his size disadvantage.
“He’s gotta be Brian Brennan, Wayne Chrebet, Wes Welker,” Ramsey said of diminutive receivers who’ve been successful in the NFL. “Can he do it? Yeah. I honestly believe so.”
Schubert led Oberlin in catches (60), receiving yards (723), touchdown catches (six) and all-purpose yards (2,041) in 2007.
“Not being the biggest guy has never really been a problem for me,” he said. “I made up for it in other ways.
“You’ve just got to be confident in your abilities. You’ve gotta run better routes, give better jukes, be quicker in and out of breaks. You’ve gotta be more mental than physical.”
Schubert had a different mental challenge Friday as he tried to deal with a case of nerves many people will never experience.
“You try to take it down as low as you can and relax,” he said. “When you don’t have as many reps as you did in college, every one counts. If you drop a ball here or there, you have to pick it back up and keep going.”
Schubert will apply that philosophy again if the Browns don’t ask him to stick around after the weekend for veteran minicamp and training camp. His quickness makes him a candidate to play in the Arena Football League or the Canadian Football League if the NFL takes a pass.
“I’m hoping for good news,” he said. “If the Browns choose to keep me, that’s great. If not, a big thanks for the opportunity. It’s an opportunity I never really thought I’d ever get.”
Oberlin’s football tradition is as rich as a rice cake. Ramsey thought Chris Smith in 1968 signed as a rookie free agent with the Redskins, but there’s no mention of him having made the team on pro-football-reference.com.
So Schubert’s run at history is big news in Yeomen country.
“It’s kinda nice. We finally got someone noticed,” Ramsey said. “Trust me, we’re publicizing it.”
That’s part of the reason Browns general manager Phil Savage likes to invite players with area ties to try out.
“It gives them some publicity and keeps the relationship between us and the colleges strong,” he said. “It’s important for colleges to be recognized, and it’s important for us to be kept in the loop.”
While the chances of any tryout making an NFL team are slim, those of a 5-8 kid from Oberlin are Calista Flockhart skinny. So if the size issue is too much to overcome, the Arena League might be the perfect Plan B.
“Every road has an end,” Schubert said. “But I’m going to ride it out.”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or email@example.com.