Today is payday for Alex Linnenkohl and Caleb Schlauderaff.
After years of hard work, the two offensive linemen who grew up about 25 miles apart in the South Sound – Linnenkohl in Olympia and Schlauderaff in Shelton – will play today in the 86th East-West Shrine Game in Orlando, Fla.
“This is something I’ve always dreamed of being in,” said Linnenkohl, a Capital graduate and a three-year starter at Oregon State. “Through the ups and downs, sometimes you wonder if it’s going to happen. You just do what you can, what you can control to get here.”
Linnenkohl and Schlauderaff are one of only a few from the Olympia area to ever play in the Shrine Game, the longest-running college all-star football game.
Today is both reward and audition. Both are hoping to be selected in April’s NFL draft.
Linnenkohl started 38 straight games at center for Oregon State over the past three seasons. Schlauderaff moved into the starting spot at left guard three games into his redshirt freshman season at Utah and made 49 straight starts.
All week, NFL scouts watched practices and talked with players.
“I’ve never done so many interviews in my life,” said Schlauderaff, a second-team All-American. “They ask you about your life. They ask you about everything. This is their chance to get to know you.”
Scouts told Linnenkohl and Schlauderaff today’s game is only part of the evaluation.
“They said the biggest thing is game film from the season, and that’s already in the books,” Schlauderaff said. “This and the combines will just add to it.”
“The eyes are really on you here,” said Linnenkohl, who was second-team All-Pacific-10 Conference and a candidate for the Remington Trophy, given to the top center in the country.
With only a week’s practice for today’s game, the playbook is small.
“We have six or seven run plays and six or seven pass protections,” Schlauderaff said. “So, it’s not that much information. Besides, defenses are pretty much watered down. They can’t blitz.”
On Sunday, the first day the teams arrived, Linnenkohl, Schlauderaff and the rest of the players visited children at a local Shriners Hospital.
“We went and said hi to the kids. They were excited,” Schlauderaff said. “It was great for them and great for us. It was a win-win situation.”
In high school and college, Linnenkohl and Schlauderaff were opponents, with both players getting a win while in college. Utah beat the Beavers 31-28 in 2008 and Oregon State beat Utah 24-7 in 2007. Today, they’re teammates.
“I’ve been playing left guard, and Alex is playing center,” Schlauderaff said. “We’re playing next to each other. It’s pretty cool.”
Gail Wood: 360-754-5443 firstname.lastname@example.org