Former Brown Deer standout Jake Schimenz playing for Tomahawk, a professional football team in Brazil.(Photo: Submitted)
Jake Schimenz had a goal to play professional sports overseas.
He figured if an opportunity arose, it would be through baseball, the sport he played in college.
But conversations with fellow athletes at Sterling College led the former Brown Deer High School standout to realize there could be opportunities to play professional football. Schimenz began emailing highlight film and a sales pitch to teams across the world.
A Brazilian football team was the first to express interest, and Schimenz was soon off to begin his professional career with Tomahawk in the town of Limeira.
"I really had no expectations," Schimenz said. "I had no idea what to think of football overseas. I didn't know what the competition would be like."
Schimenz was a multi-sport standout in baseball, basketball, football and track and field at Brown Deer.
He was a two-time All-State infielder for the baseball team, a four-year letterwinner on the basketball team and qualified for the state track meet on four different occasions, including winning the 800-meter state title as a sophomore in 2011.
Pewaukee senior T.J. Watt (16) takes down Brown Deer quarterback Jake Schimenz (23) on the Pewaukee goal line on Friday, August 31, 2012. (Photo: Scott Ash/Now Media Group)
Schimenz took over as Brown Deer's starting quarterback five games into the 2010 season after Brett Youngbeck went down with an injury.
He threw for 533 yards and six touchdowns and ran for 423 yards and 10 scores in just five games, leading the Falcons to an 8-2 record and the Woodland Conference title before a Level 1 playoff loss to Milwaukee Lutheran.
Schimenz helped Brown Deer to a 5-5 mark and a playoff berth during his junior season of 2011, throwing for 740 yards and 10 touchdowns and running for two more touchdowns.
A shoulder injury limited him to just one game during his senior year of football and also caused him to miss two-thirds of the following basketball season.
Schimenz went on to pursue baseball at the next level, playing four years at Sterling College in Kansas.
After hitting .350 in 40 games as a senior, Schimenz talked to former Sterling football players that went on to play football professionally overseas and picked their brains about how they went about pursuing a team to give them an opportunity.
Schimenz estimated he e-mailed 200 to 300 teams throughout the world.
"I just said, 'If a team takes a chance on me, that'd be awesome," Schimenz said. "I wrote up this email and told them what I have done. I told them all the different sports I played in high school and then that I played baseball in college.
"I wanted to show myself as an athlete. A few teams got back to me, but the first team that got back to me was in Brazil. I said, 'Wow, I've always wanted to go to Brazil.' I was glad they took a chance on me. The rest is history."
The language barrier
There was an adjustment period for Schimenz living in Brazil, but he quickly adopted the culture, learned some Portuguese and became close friends with the owner of the gym where he works out.
Additionally, there were challenges on the football field. Only two players on the team spoke broken English, and Schimenz only knew a few basic Portuguese phrases. That led to the development of alternative ways to communicate with the rest of the offense.
"Once we settled in, our whole offense was pretty much hand signals," Schimenz said. "Any audible, any change of direction, any change of the play, were based off hand singles so I could communicate.
"The one or two guys on the team that could speak broken English helped me translate when I needed to get my point across about what we have to do against this type of defense and such."
Schimenz joined Tomahawk midseason, but in six games, he accounted 29 touchdowns — 17 passing and 12 rushing — and helped his team average 44 points per game.
He was the player of the week from Oct. 7-14 after he racked up eight touchdowns in a game (five through the air and three on the ground).
Sudden success for Tomahawk
Formed eight years ago, Tomahawk hadn't had much success until Schimenz arrived. That all changed after its American import took over under center, as Tomahawk advanced all the way to the Sao Paulo state championship game for the first time in team history.
Despite Tomahawk falling, 27-26, to the Leme Lizards on Dec. 10, Schimenz was named State Championship MVP.
"This team was not necessarily known for being at the top of the league or top of the state," Schimenz said. "I had a lot of goals to help bring this team up and compete for a state championship.
"We made it as far as we have in team history, which was awesome. To get the State Championship MVP was a huge honor on a personal level."
Schimenz feels American football is growing in popularity in Brazil. He compared the main stadium where Tomahawk played its games to an average high-school facility.
Crowds were strong for big games, not so much for less important games. He guessed 2,000 people attended the state championship.
"The interest level is a lot better than I thought it would be," Schimenz said. "It is growing throughout the entire country.
"The range in (football experience) is humongous. Some of my teammates have been playing since they were young, but some are just two to three years into football. Some guys really understand the game and some guys are just good athletes that aren't football savvy but continue to learn. It was fun showing them different concepts they could run, especially the wide receivers, because they are really good athletes."
Return to Brazil
Former Brown Deer standout Jake Schimenz after winning State Championship MVP honors in Brazil. (Photo: Submitted)
For Schimenz, this wasn't a one-year trial. He plans on returning to Tomahawk in late January.
Teams play games every other week in Brazil, leaving the season to last from late February into December. In addition to playing at the state level, Tomahawk will also play at the national level throughout Brazil this season.
Schimenz hopes to one day reach the Arena Football League or the Canadian Football League but is taking his career one step at a time for now.
"Like anything, you have to work your way from the bottom all the way up," Schimenz said. "I'm enjoying traveling the world. Right now, I'm just getting my feet wet. I love Brazil. I don't have any plans of leaving anytime soon. I'll just take it year to year.
"I want to continue to spread the game of football and get other countries to enjoy it, as well."
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