Cory Schemm is perhaps the best athlete to come out of Maryvale High School.
-- He’s the only football player to have his number retired by the school. He amassed 50 touchdowns, including 31 rushing, during a three-year career, gained more than 4,000 yards total yards and garnered two All-Western New York first team selections.
-- He will always hold the Aloha Bowl record for receiving yards in a game (194), a mark he set in 1996 while helping Navy post a 42-38 comeback win over a loaded California team that included future NFLers Tony Gonzalez, Deltha O’Neal and Ryan Longwell.
-- Ex-teammates who are now respected high school coaches in the area still talk about his athletic feats with the awe most sports fans would reserve for the all-time greats. Lifelong friend and North Tonawanda boys basketball coach Ryan Mountain lists his top three athletes as Larry Bird, John Elway and Schemm.
With that in mind the question had to be asked? Did the recently promoted United States Naval captain, who once hit a 450-foot home run in a high school baseball game, ever consider chasing a professional career in sports -- specifically football?
Of course, he did. Schemm earned invitations to camps with the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers.
But being a graduate of the Naval Academy comes with a big responsibility – a five-year service commitment. That duty along with a couple shoulder surgeries and actual odds of landing an NFL roster spot as an undrafted free agent put the kibosh on the NFL dream.
It led to a 22-year military career filled with significant moments that’s still going strong. Remember, Schemm was part of the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt that was the United States’ first response to the 9/11 attacks by al-Qaeda.
“I have no regrets,” Schemm said, “I can say that with 100 percent certainty.”
Schemm definitely was beaming with pride Saturday afternoon, as navy life led to him having his own Homecoming at Buffalo Yacht Club before more than 100 people – a crowd that included his wife Dana, parents and two older brothers. It was there during a promotion ceremony in which Schemm officially received his captain’s stripes and captain’s jacket during an event turned into trip down memory lane for Maryvale’s only Connolly Cup Award winner and those closest to him.
Teammate and current Burgard football coach Jason Kolb shared stories from the two’s playing days with the Flyers – when they were part of a backfield dubbed ‘The Four Horsemen’ by coach Gary Braun. So too did another former Maryvale assistant in Bob Mullen along with former school principal Robert Moscato.
There were laughs, standing ovations and tears shed by the honoree when Schemm took his turn at the podium to give a speech.
Saturday served as another reminder of just how sports can provide life memories, life bonds and then some.
“I’m a huge advocate for sports,” he said. “I think that prepares you for life regardless of what path you choose to take. I just so happened to go the military path but I feel the coaches, the administrators, the teammates ... all had a huge role in that. ... ‘Don’t give up!’ ‘In order to win you have to put in.’ All those types of things that are cliché, but when you face life it’s real. I think that stuff resonates with you and you can rely on those memories and tough times to get through any difficulties as you face them.”
Schemm, who is currently stationed at the Pentagon and has pretty much seen the world, could have had Saturday’s promotion ceremony anywhere.
He chose home because it afforded an opportunity to reconnect and see family and friends he hasn’t been able to see too often due to his career, which currently has him in the middle of a three-year tour stationed at the Pentagon in Washington.
Becoming a captain in the Navy is a pretty big deal as the only officers who rank higher in the food chain in this military branch are admirals.
“I’m honored that they were able to attend,” Schemm said. “To me this is not so much a ceremony about me or the promotion on to itself. Obviously, it’s an honor, but it’s more for me to thank those who have been there. And those teammates, just seeing them, just recollecting on the things we went through over time. They’ve always been there. ... We’re just blood brothers through and through. Especially being in the military, I don’t get to see them too often.
“That’s a pinnacle of a lifelong dream. I’m certainly aware not everyone is afforded that opportunity. It was awesome to be able to do it in front of family and friends in my hometown. Buffalo to me is a national treasure.”