When Ryan Schumacher enrolled at McCallie as a freshman, part of his orientation was learning that he would not be allowed to compete in varsity athletics. That was by TSSAA rule because he was receiving an academic scholarship.
Schumacher’s cross country times would have earned him all-state honors, and he would have qualified for the Division II state track meet in any distance event he entered. But rather than pout, Schumacher spent four years running for the Blue Tornado’s junior varsity, working his way to the top of his graduating class and spending what little free time he had volunteering with several local charities, including the Chattanooga Area Food Bank and tutoring kids at the Bethlehem Center.
The combination of his academic and athletic accomplishments and his community service made Schumacher one of only 25 recent high school graduates, out of 4,000 applicants, to be named a national finalist for the Scholar Athlete Milk Mustache of the Year award. Each of the finalists will fly to Orlando next weekend for a photo shoot that will appear in a national ad in USA Today beginning June 24.
The award winner will receive a $7,500 scholarship, but should Schumacher win, not surprisingly, he said he would be more excited about the $5,000 that would be given to the charity of his choice. That would be Feeding America.
“I know a lot of people will see the ad, and since the milk mustaches will be digitally added, I’ve asked them if they could make mine a big handlebar mustache,” said Schumacher, who graduated with a 4.2 grade point average and chose to attend Stanford over Harvard. “I thought that would be cool because it would at least give people a good laugh.
“Personally I wish they would divide the money for charity evenly to all 25 of us. That way it would benefit more people.”
Whether in the classroom, competing athletically or even looking for ways to improve his community, Schumacher is wired to be a classic workaholic overachiever.
Eight years ago while he and his family lived in Connecticut, Schumacher’s sister came home from school concerned because one of her classmates didn’t have money for crayons. After some brainstorming, the siblings approached their parents with the idea of filling backpacks with school supplies and having them delivered to less fortunate kids.
Schumacher continued the summer practice of filling backpacks with things such as pencils, paper, folders and binders, crayons and glue once the family moved to Chattanooga. In the seven years since beginning that project, Schumacher has shopped for, organized, stuffed and delivered more than 500 backpacks, including 120 last year.
He said that total is likely to go up again this year because of the need by area tornado victims.
“He’s a tremendous role model with his behavior and how he treats other people,” McCallie coach Mike Wood said. “He started coming to our sports camp when he was about 10, and now he’s a counselor for us.
“I love his humility and the fact he has a heart to serve others. He’s a sincere Christian kid, a very hard worker and is just a very positive representative of his family and McCallie.”
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 20 years, starting at the News-Free Press as a 19-year-old reporter. He has been with the Times Free Press since its inception and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers in the nation ...
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