It was less than a month after leading Minnesota State to the national championship football game, and Ryan Schlichte was traveling the Midwest, trying to convince the best athletes that they should attend Northern State.

It was a little odd at first, wearing maroon-colored clothing instead of purple, but for Schlichte, it’s an important step toward his future.

“I’ve know for a long time what I wanted to do, so I was sending out resumes last fall,” he said. “But you never know if it’s going to happen until it happens, and it’s been a great transition.”

Schlichte, a three-year starting quarterback at Minnesota State, is working as a graduate assistant at Northern State, helping to coach receivers. He’ll join in the recruiting, which was basically done for this season but is just starting for next year.

“I’m not going to take a negative approach to recruiting,” he said. “There’s a lot to like about what we have going on (at Northern State). There’s nothing bad I could say about Mankato. I put my heart and soul into that program for years.”

Schlichte has treated local football fans to six seasons of quality football in Mankato, leading Mankato West to a state championship in 2014 before joining Minnesota State.

Despite rotating at the quarterback position for three seasons, he still ranks third in team history with 66 touchdown passes, fifth with 5,958 yards, sixth with 392 completions and seventh with 715 passing attempts.

He played in all 43 games in the last three seasons, during which the Mavericks went 40-3. He never lost a regular-season game.

Schlichte was playing his best football over the second half of last season, and he saved his best game for last, completing 24 of 39 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns and nearly bringing the Mavericks back from a 24-point, second-half deficit in the 48-40 loss to West Florida in the national championship game.

Now, he’s embarking on a coaching career, which seems like a natural move for someone with Schlichte’s leadership skills, knowledge and genetics. His dad, Dave, coached with the Mavericks from 1984-91 under Dan Runkle, and his older brother Jay is a coach at Morningside, which won the NAIA national championship this season.

A graduate-assistant position generally lasts two years, giving a person a taste of the coaching life while pursuing a master’s degree.

“I have a five-year goal of being a coordinator at a Division II school or position coach at Division I,” Schlichte said. “I’m taking small strides every day, and in five years, we’ll see where I’m at.”

He’ll be working with receivers at Northern State. Having spent four seasons of throwing to Shane Zylstra and Justin Arnold, he has seen how the best of Division II receivers operate.

Schlichte will also spend time working with offensive coordinator Isaac Fruechte, lending his expertise with the quarterbacks.

His days now start at 4:45 a.m. and last until 6:15 p.m., unless there are evening workouts. He’ll take the players through position drills or encourage them in the weight room. There are staff meetings in the afternoon. He’s also doing online work for three classes.

“I’m definitely loving it,” he said. “This is what I want to do. It doesn’t feel like work, and I really like the guys I’m working with.”

Things might get a little weird in September, when the Mavericks host Northern State in the home opener. Schlichte won’t be allowed into the spacious, comfortable home locker room, and no matter the outcome, he won’t be ringing the Victory Bell.

“The first day, my coach told me if I had looked at the schedule,” Schlichte said. “He said Mankato was the first game, and I thought he was kidding. But let’s do it. You can’t write this any better.”

Chad Courrier is a Free Press staff writer. To contact him, call 507-344-6353, email at ccourrier@mankatofreepress.com or follow his Twitter feed @ChadCourrier.

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