MANKATO — It all started in the choir room at the high school in Slater, Iowa, five years ago.
Just Chris Schaudt, then a skinny, 215-pound senior, alone with Minnesota State defensive coordinator Joe Klanderman. The two talked for an hour about football, academics and goals, for college and beyond.
It was then that Schaudt figured out that he should say no to walk-on offers at Iowa, Iowa State and Northern Iowa and accept a scholarship offer from the Mavericks. It was then that Klanderman knew he was getting a special person and player.
"I had a hard time figuring him out because he was so quiet," Klanderman said. "Camaraderie was big to him; he was really into the team aspect.
"He didn't really talk about stats. He just wanted to go somewhere where there were good people, and it was my job to assure him that he would be comfortable at Minnesota State."
Schaudt begins his final season as Minnesota State's all-time leader in sacks (27) and tackles for loss (147.5), growing from that skinny, quiet kid to an accomplished, confident leader. He still doesn't say a lot, but his words carry a lot of meaning in the locker room and meetings.
"If you buy into the plan these coaches have for you, you're guaranteed success," Schaudt said. "It's nothing really special that I've done. You stay around in the summer and work out and watch film. ... You just can't take a day off."
Schaudt's career has been marked by steady improvement. As a redshirt, he enjoyed the freedom of little reponsibility. On the scout team, he just did what he was told, paid attention to what the coaches and veteran players had to say and work hard.
He listened to defensive players Bryan Schmid and Mike Robinson and offensive linemen Jeremy Clark, Andy Schoonover and Adrian Battles, making use of their tips as he gained the necessary weight and strength to play the next season.