How Bryan Schor overcame early disappointment to become national champion at James Madison
James Madison quarterback Bryan Schor has always had a knack for keeping his composure when things don't go as planned in front of him.
Whether facing a broken play or a collapsing pocket, Schor’s poise under pressure and ability to extend plays with his mobility and arm strength is one of the senior’s greatest assets.
“When things break down around him, his ability to keep his eyes downfield and feel the pressure, and just slide one way or another or tuck it and go… he really did some really unique things that way in high school,” said Keith Olsommer, Schor’s coach at Delaware Valley High School. “And obviously he’s continued that.”
The same can be said about his poise when facing challenging situations off the field. Take the fall of 2013, for instance.
A product of DVHS in Milford, Pennsylvania, Schor was set to attend Miami (Ohio) on scholarship after committing to the FBS program during his junior year. Those plans quickly changed when RedHawks coach Don Treadwell was fired in October 2013.
Schor’s scholarship was rescinded under the new administration shortly before signing day and just a few weeks before he was set to begin taking classes at Miami as a grayshirt.
“Obviously I was really hurt that it didn’t work out and I didn’t get to Miami (Ohio), but I’m pretty optimistic when it comes to stuff like that,” Schor told NCAA.com in early October. “I know that when something doesn’t work out, there’s a reason why it didn’t work out.
“Everything that I’ve been through has brought me to the moment where I am right now.”
And where Schor and the Dukes are right now is at the pinnacle of FCS play. The 2016 second-team FCS All-American guided James Madison to its second national championship in program history last year with 39 total touchdowns and a career-high 3,002 passing yards. This season, No. 1 JMU is 6-0 with eyes on another deep postseason run.
With a national championship and countless individual accolades to his name, Schor is now entrenched as one of the FCS’ premier quarterbacks. But just four years ago, he found himself in what he called “football limbo.”
Olsommer, a former Penn State tight end from 1993-96, knew Schor had Division I talent from his very first game as a high school freshman, when he stepped into action after Delaware Valley’s starter suffered an injury.
Schor took hold of the starting job, became an All-State quarterback and led DVHS to 29 victories in 40 games played during his high school career.
“When he played for us, the bigger the game the better the output was for Bryan,” Olsommer said in a phone interview. “Every time we had a big game, it seemed like Bryan was off the charts with his passing and was throwing for 400 yards and four or five touchdowns. He’s been a kid that when the pressure’s on the most, he rises to the occasion.”
But with a scholarship to Miami off the table so late in the signing process, Olsommer said Schor was “back to square one” when it came to finding alternative collegiate opportunities.
Olsommer invited Schor to stay involved with Delaware Valley as an assistant quarterbacks coach the fall after his graduation. This role allowed him to work out with the team and stay around the game.
Schor added that being on the other side of a coach-player relationship served him greatly when it comes to studying his current game.
“Getting a chance to coach kids instead of just being coached, you get a chance to see what it’s like to give advice on something — but you learn how to take advice as well,” Schor said. “You understand where your coaches come from more, because you’ve done it in the past.
“You always hear this, but he was a student of the game,” Olsommer added. “He’s a guy that was always wondering why we called the things we’d want and why we were going to make this read. I just attributed to it to him being an intelligent football player and wanting to learn more about the game.”
During the spring, Schor then enrolled at Lackawanna College, in nearby Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he participated in spring ball practices. According to Schor, spring isn’t a usual time to be recruited, but he did get a scholarship offer that semester.
From James Madison.
It didn’t take long for Schor to make up his mind. After one trip to the Harrisonburg, Virginia campus, he felt at home. He committed to JMU the day after visiting, and headed down to start summer school just two weeks later.
“It really was one of those feelings, when I drove to campus I just knew it was a place where I wanted to be at,” Schor said. “I really liked the way the program was moving at the time, I really loved walking into Bridgeforth Stadium and seeing the type of atmosphere that James Madison football has. It was a good fit.”
When coach Mike Houston first took the helm at James Madison in January 2016, Schor was the only scholarship quarterback on the Dukes’ roster. As a sophomore in 2015, Schor played in eight games, completing 63.1 percent of his pass attempts with seven touchdowns and one interception.
Houston wanted to bring in another experienced quarterback to improve the depth behind Schor after he was “OK” in their first spring together. Enter South Carolina transfer Connor Mitch.
“We didn’t really bring in [Mitch] to start, we brought him in to compete,” Houston told NCAA.com. “We were just trying to have some sort of competition for Bryan because besides that, we would’ve just had a true freshman.”
Position battles could yield positive or negative results for any player’s mindset and performance. In Schor’s case, Houston said it immediately pushed his game to the next level. “He was driven to not only be the starter, but the reason why we won.”
“When he stepped into the huddle for fall camp, he just took control of everything,” Houston said. “He’s a guy that not only has athletic ability, but he’s a smart football player, he understands the game, he understands everybody’s job. He’s a natural leader.”
The results showed once the regular season arried. Schor led the nation in completion percentage last year (73.1), had two five-touchdown games and pushed the Dukes to a 14-1 record. He accounted for 242 yards and three touchdowns in a statement win over five-time defending champ North Dakota State in the FCS semifinals and followed that up with two more touchdown passes in JMU’s national title game victory against Youngstown State.
This year, Schor is on pace to eclipse his career-high mark in touchdowns and is once again completing a remarkable 70 percent of his passes. All the while, JMU has remained atop the FCS coaches poll since the first preseason rankings.
It’s been a long, unexpected roadmap to success for Schor, but it’s one he said he wouldn’t trade for anything else.
“In that moment [when we won the national championship], it just felt like everything we’ve gone through as a team was all worth it. The road that I’ve taken to be at JMU and to finally earn a starting spot and to be the quarterback for our team, it was all worth it,” Schor said.
“To go through all the trials and tribulations and to get to that moment in life where you think that everything you’ve done was for a purpose, it was just an amazing feeling to see the confetti fall and to be up on the stage with the trophy.”