Norris has for years had an internet fan base that would quote the actor’s physical abilities in superhuman form. Examples like “Chuck Norris doesn’t use weapons. Chuck Norris is a weapon” and “Chuck Norris does not get frost bite. He bites frost” have led to a myriad of websites and contests to invent the best Norris quote. Barrowing from that, Mountaineer fans have invented “Schmittisms,” or similar sentiments about the 6-3, 250-pounder.
Some have been taken directly from Norris’ fan base. Among the favorites is “When Owen Schmitt does a pushup, he isn’t lifting himself. He’s pushing the earth down.” Some are very creative, a la those found on wemustignitethiscouch.com: Owen Schmitt is so strong that… *the pads he wears are intended to protect other players. *he once entered a competitive eating contest... there were no survivors. *he only allows himself to be tackled so that his teammates can be involved in the game. *his mother was awarded the Purple Heart after his birth. *there are now six permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. *the United States Military added a DEFCON-9: Owen Schmitt can’t find his keys.
“It’s funny. My roommates will tell me about the stuff they write,” said Schmitt, who has been called a mutant by head strength coach Mike Barwis. “We are big Chuck Norris fans, and so we understand where they get that. I have read all that stuff on Blue and Gold News and other places.”
Schmitt quickly become a fan favorite because of his work ethic and physical style. The junior came to West Virginia from Division III Wisconsin-River Falls, where he was an all-conference running back. He made an immediate impact, and head coach Rich Rodriguez was so impressed that the inventor of the spread, which had thus far rendered the position nearly nonexistent, vowed to get the fullback more involved in the WVU offense.
When the sixth-year coach kept his word, Schmitt responded by ripping off huge runs in upsets of Maryland, Louisville and Georgia. He proved all-purpose, retuning a kick 20 yards against Virginia Tech, rushing for 16 yards and catching three passes against Rutgers and recording six knockdowns against Louisville. But it was his bruising runs that provided highlights drew WVU’s blue collar base to the brat-eating, Big Ten-like rusher.
Schmitt had his breakout game at Maryland. He ran for a team-high 80 yards and a touchdown, and had gains of 34, 19 and 13 yards, including huge runs late in the fourth quarter when Maryland had rallied to within one score. He also hit a Terp linebacker so hard that he dented his facemask, and that blue trophy now sits inside the Puskar Center, a tribute to Schmitt’s toughness and WVU’s physical dominance in the game.
Schmitt set up superback Steve Slaton’s six scores versus Louisville. Two came in overtime, the latter one the game-winner via a 20-yard catch-and-run from quarterback Patrick White on third-and-eight that begat Slaton’s one-yard dive off the right side. He also had a 44-yard run in the 45-13 pasting of Pitt and 82 yards rushing in the 38-35 Sugar Bowl win over Georgia.
“I think teams key so much on Steve and Patrick that they forget about me and I just sneak through there,” he said. “Fulback isn’t really noticed any more in college football. It’s becoming a position of the past.”
Schmitt’s making a case for its revival right now. He shocked UGA on a 54-yard gainer on third and one in the second quarter, showcasing speed and quickness in addition to power on the run. It was the finale of a series of season-long big gains that tallied Schmitt 380 yards – all without a single lost yard. He averaged 7.9 yards per carry and is one of only two WVU fullbacks in school history to never lose a yard while playing significant time.
“It has seemed to work out for both of us, probably me more than them,” Schmitt said of his time at WVU. “I think maybe people identify with me and what I had to do to get here, playing at Wisconsin-River Falls. It is, like you said, a blue-collar state, and I just do what I have to do and work hard. I think people identify with that, and they did that with Wes Ours, too. I remember hearing about him and everything people said.”
Ours, who, at 290-300 pounds (depending on his last meal) was the biggest fullback in the nation at his senior year (a fact), ate 10 steaks at a sitting and ate for more than three hours. ESPN’s Lee Corso expanded that persona to a nationwide audience in 2000, when he said he had lunch with Ours prior to West Virginia’s win over Mississippi in the Music City Bowl and embellished Ours’ eating and weight. West Virginia fans embraced the “Wes Express,” in the same way that they later loved Mo Fofana and now cherish Schmitt.
“The next thing (in my career) after this is probably to quit, so I am excited for this season and the time I have left,” Schmitt said. “It’s kind of crazy that people follow a position like that, but West Virginia fans seem to really love the fullback. I would just like to thank them for all the support and everything they do for the team and me.”