Chat transcript with Joe Schmidt

General Published on : 11/10/2000

When Joe Schmidt started playing pro football, the Lions were traditionally a strong defensive team, a reputation that they happily have maintained ever since. Yet within a very short time after his first pro game, Joe was the defensive leader of the Lions. Later in his career, he was the team's field captain for nine straight seasons.

Joe Schmidt

Joe Schmidt: Hi everyone!

kpaluso: What would you have done with your life had you not played football? What are you up to now?
Joe Schmidt: Coming out of college at U-Pitt, I planned to be a physical education and coach. Right now, I'm a manufacturers agent and we sell auto parts. I've been doing it for 28 years and I'm getting ready to retire. However, I'm turning 69 years old and I'm ready to retire soon!

bearsfan: Hey Joe, who was the toughest guy to tackle when you played?
Joe Schmidt:
There was a whole bunch. Jim Brown, Jim Taylor of the Packers, Rick Casares from the Bears, Joe Perry from the 49ers. That's about it.

cclark: Which team did you most look forward to getting on the field with?
Joe Schmidt:
I really didn't look at it that way. We enjoyed playing every game and there wasn't really a special team. If I had to pick one, I would say the Baltimore Colts with Johnny Unitas. If he wasn't the best, he's among the best. I would say one of the top five players ever in the NFL.

mermitage: Did you ever play on artificial turf? If so, did you like it? Do you think that teams that play in domes are hurting the integrity of the game?
Joe Schmidt: I never played on artificial turf and I'm very happy about that. It can shorten your career. All these young guys today have lasting injuries that pop up when you get older. As for domes, I don't really care for them. Football should be played outdoors in the elements. People who go to the games (the real fans) probably enjoy the game more outdoors.

saleemc: Who was your best friend on the team when you played with the Lions?
Joe Schmidt: I don't like to point out any individual. We were a team and I'd like to think that all my teammates were special to me. That's the way I look at it, even today.

kpaluso: Who was your favorite football player growing up?
Joe Schmidt: Back then, I didn't really have one. My brother (out of three brothers total) played in college (Carnegie Tech) when I was younger. My parents would take me to watch him play and I would say he was my hero back then. He also played one year on the Steelers before joining the service. Of course, back then you could only listen to games on the radio.

MODERATOR: Who do you think is the best linebacker in the game today?
Joe Schmidt:  Oh boy. That's a hard question for me because I really don't watch it that much anymore. I would say Junior Seau is one of the best. That's about all I could say at the moment about present players.

saleemc: What was more difficult, playing linebacker or being an NFL coach?
Joe Schmidt: Being a coach is more difficult (laughs). I went from playing to coaching (I only spent one season as an assistant coach). I didn't have a lot of coaching experience but my assistants helped a lot. We actually made it to the playoffs during my fourth season. I was only 35 when I started and quite young to lead an NFL team.

bearsfan: Joe, who was the best defensive lineman you went up against?
Joe Schmidt: You mean offensive lineman! We only had 12 teams back then. I would say Jim Ringo of Green Bay was one; Bob St. Clair of the 49ers; Jim Parker of the Baltimore Colts. Those guys were really good in my estimation.

bearsfan: What's your fondest memory from your playing days?
Joe Schmidt:
I have a lot of them! I would say my first year being able to make a championship team. We beat Cleveland 17-16 after Bobby Layne threw a touchdown for the winning score. It was amazing!

MODERATOR: Thanks for joining us today, Joe. Any final thoughts?
Joe Schmidt:  It was a pleasure for me to be here today! I was very privileged and honored to play in the NFL. Football has matured over the years and there are a lot of great athletes playing today. This is the greatest game in sports and I think it takes a lot of skill to be a good football player. Again, I've been very fortunate and privileged to be a part of it.