In the two seconds after he hears a question, Adison Schimmelpfennig folds his hands in front of him and leans back slightly. Say, 3 degrees, or so, just enough to add an extra sureness to his demeanor, not so much as to seem audacious.
Then he speaks. His words are controlled and insightful. These are brand new questions for Schimmelpfennig, but his answers are complete and polished. He’s in command.
It was the Lambert senior linebacker and Forsyth County News’ 2014 Defensive Player of the Year who commanded the Longhorns’ defense on the way to a 7-4 record and second straight home playoff game.
Schimmelpfennig had plenty working against him this season. He’s small for an inside linebacker (he’s listed at 5-foot-11, generously). He’d lost his entire defensive line in front of him. He was now part of opponents’ game plans (he made over 100 tackles last season).
Still, the Georgetown commit produced, even adding new dimensions to his game. He hit the 100-tackle mark again, but made 20 more solo tackles than his junior season. He had 18.5 tackles for loss, up from just 2.5 in 2013.
Even more, he helped guide Lambert back into state playoff contention after starting the season 1-3 again.
Question: How would you describe the 2014 season?
Schimmelpfennig: “Our season didn’t start off the way we wanted to. We had to reevaluate, make some changes but finished the season on a six-game winning streak and got the opportunity to host a playoff game. For our team, it ended up great. It ended up pretty much exactly how we wanted it to be.
“And then on a personal level, I achieved some of the things I was looking for. One of my biggest goals was to be named first-team all-region. I got that. I never even dreamed of being the county [defensive] player of the year, but that’s a huge plus. It went great.”
Q: How did you guys bounce back from that 1-3 start?
Schimmelpfennig: “Most teams when you start out 1-3, it’s going to end your season right there. Nobody tends to have the strength, the endurance, to pick yourself up and carry yourself on from a 1-3 start. Having been there, and we had a good, solid senior class of returners who had been there before, nobody ever really felt discouraged. Nobody panicked, and we were able to get ourselves under control and headed back in the right direction.”
Q: What felt like the highlight for your season?
Schimmelpfennig: “Definitely beating South at home. It’s close, with that close West Forsyth game, but taking care of South at home was a lot of fun.”
Q: What felt like the biggest challenge?
Schimmelpfennig: “The biggest challenge, and I know this on a personal level, was replacing the defensive line. We had four great seniors last year who played on the defensive line, really five. And we didn’t have anykids returning. Trevon [McSwain], Theiss, Brad Whicher, Will Dunavant and Brandon Hardee, I owe a ton to them, because … I don’t know how optimistic I was to start the season with a whole new defensive line. But it ended up that they did a great job. For our defense, that was the biggest accomplishment I think for us.”
Q: Were there certain areas of your game you were interested in improving?
Schimmelpfennig: “I started running with the track team back in the spring, working with a personal trainer to improve my speed, and I actually dropped from a high 4.8 40 to a high 4.6, so that was a huge piece for me. Obviously being a short player I need to be faster.
“And then getting to know my checks and being able to run the defense better. That was a big thing I talked with coach [Craig] Woodall, our defensive coordinator, about. Being able to really command the defense better than I did last year because as a junior I was not the greatest at it, and this year I felt I made huge gains.”
Q: You’re committed to Georgetown. Why’d you pick them?
Schimmelpfennig: “I want to study international business, and academically it’s going to be by far the greatest academic opportunity for me for what I want to study. I absolutely love the coaching staff. They’ve been great. And then they’ve got some great things going forward in that program. They hired on [head] coach [Rob] Sgarlata and the program’s going in the right direction. I felt like it was going to be a great place for me to go in and be a part of a new program just like I did here at Lambert.”
Q: Who was the best player you faced this season?
Schimmelpfennig: “Either [Alpharetta quarterback] Austin King or Tario Fuller, the running back from Lanier. He’s a good player.”
Q: What was the toughest overall offense you faced?
Schimmelpfennig: “Alpharetta’s usually pretty tough to stop. Austin King is a great quarterback. He’s got so many weapons. Great running back, great group of receivers and they always have a solid offensive line. That [game] was pretty difficult. That one’s always a big challenge for us.”
Q: Are they any individual plays you made this season that stick out for you?
Schimmelpfennig: “I know there was one fumble recovery in the backfield of the West game. I believe it was the second drive. They driving in to score a second time, and I think it was Trevon hit the [player]. They were doing a little read-option, and he broke it up in the backfield. I jumped on it. That was a huge momentum swing.
“And then obviously in the South game, Justyn Jean-Felix made a great play on the first drive, set the tone a little bit, and then I came back on the second drive and made a pretty good hit. That pretty much sealed the deal. They knew we were going to be there the whole night. That one was a good one.”
Q: Those tackles for loss seemed like a new dimension to your game this season. What went into that improving?
Schimmelpfennig: “That I can contribute to my improvement in speed. All that work that I did. I’m not a big fan of running, but I did a lot of it to improve there. And then also in the weight room. We focus a ton on power cleans. … I made huge gains there. The ability to explode through a tackle and really to drive backward.
Every hit this year I felt like I was stronger and pushing [the player] back toward the line. That was big in being able to get back there and actually finish off.
Q: Another big group of seniors is graduating. What do you think is in store for Lambert next season?
Schimmelpfennig: “I think it’s going to continue to go forward. They’ve got a great group of offensive linemen coming back. I’m pretty sure they were all juniors this year. That’s going to be huge. [Wide receiver] Tanner Hall will be great next season. I know he’ll be working in the weight room. It’ll be interesting to see what happens at quarterback. I know Richie [Kenney]’s been working, and I believe we had a kid transfer to Kings Ridge. So that’ll be interesting, but I know somebody will step in.
“Defense, there are a lot of younger guys. We’re going to have a lot of sophomores and juniors who have been preparing and learning from the seniors and juniors from this past season. I don’t worry about it all. I think they’re going to be great. I think the offensive line is going to carry this team.”