Frank Kleha: Can you gauge your progress from last year’s rookie season to this year as a full-time starter now?
Ryan Schraeder: It’s been crazy to think and look back to where I started and where I am now. I feel like every day is a learning opportunity. Every game I think I’ve steadily improved with all the experience I’ve gotten. It’s been fun. The whole offseason I was in the weight room because I knew that was one of the major things that I needed to work on was getting NFL strength. I didn’t have the benefit of doing that in college. I knew I had to step it up in the weight room and that alone has helped me take strides forward.
FK: You had a very successful stint in baseball during your youth sports career as a pitcher and shortstop, guiding your teams to the National Baseball Congress (NBC) World Series. Name some of the pitchers you followed growing up.
RS: I liked Randy Johnson, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and I caught Nolan Ryan at the end of his career. I liked those pitchers because they were so dominant up on the mound and they could control games. They just seemed like such a force up there.
FK: Did you try to emulate the way they pitched?
RS: Yes, it was similar. I think I really took a lot from watching them and tried to put it into my game as a kid.
FK: So who would you choose: Randy or Nolan?
RS: That’s a tough one. I would have to say Nolan. But to have them going against each other on two different teams would be something to watch.
FK: What athlete would you pay to watch?
RS: LeBron or Kobe. I went to watch Kobe play against the Hawks last year. You watch him on TV and it doesn’t do him justice. There was a point in the game where he completely took over and scored like 15 or 20 straight points. That’s when I realized this guy has still got it.
FK: What was your favorite sports memory growing up?
RS: I hit a home run and had a no-hitter in a game in the (NBC) Little League World Series (in the semifinals). But we lost in the finals against the Rocket, Roger Clemens’ nephew and son’s team.
FK: I know you’ve picked up golf again. How is your game these days?
RS: My game’s a lot better. I’m (shooting) in the 90s. There are not too many days when I’m shooting over 100. So it’s been going good and I’ve enjoyed the challenge.
FK: What was your first car?
RS: It was a white 1991 Mercury Cougar with over 100,000 miles on it that I got when I was a sophomore in high school. I drove it for about six months but got in a fender-bender with my best friend. I ran into the back of him because I wasn’t paying attention and messed the front end up (laughing).
FK: Have you ever been star struck before?
*RS: *I’m from Kansas and pretty low key, and I’ve never been star struck until earlier this year when I went to a Garth Brooks concert. I got to go backstage and meet him. I went with (teammates) Bear Pascoe and Patrick DiMarco. We had a great time and Garth was so down to earth, which I knew he would be. I thought that was pretty cool.
FK: What is your favorite sports movie?
RS: I have a lot of them. I was a pretty big "Blindside" fan. Also, I thought "Field of Dreams" was a good movie.
FK: What’s the coolest experience you’ve had since coming into the league?
RS: I thought my coolest experience to date was the Packers game this year just a couple of weeks ago. I always thought it would be cool to play at Lambeau, even though we played there last year. But the way we came back and almost beat them when nobody gave us a chance — I thought it was cool how we fought back as a team and to be a part of that was great.
FK: Growing up in Kansas City I’m sure you were a big Chiefs fan.
RS: Oh, yeah. I liked Marcus Allen, Priest Holmes, Derrick Thomas, and, of course Tony (Gonzalez).
FK: How was that experience being a fan of Tony’s as a kid and then getting a chance to play with him?
RS: I mentioned to him that I grew up in Wichita (Kansas). I think he thought that was pretty cool, too, because I watched him play and then to be able to play with him for a year. He was the person that I thought he would be. I learned a lot from him.
FK: Other than a pro athlete, what did you want to be as a kid?
RS: I thought after high school I was going to become a firefighter. I like the camaraderie with the guys and what they did to save people and help people out.
FK: What is your biggest pet peeve?
RS: Because I’m from a smaller town than Atlanta, I’m not used to all this traffic. Getting cut off would be my pet peeve or people driving under the speed limit.
FK: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
RS: I would say my growth spurt. I went from 5-foot-7 as a junior (in high school) over the summer to 6-4 as a senior. And I gained about 125 pounds. Some of my teachers and classmates didn’t even recognize me all year. They thought I was a new student.