Adam Schulz walked out of the lockerroom and into the stadium with his University of Utah football teammates, just as he had done many other times.
This mid-November day in 2013, however, was different — and special.
Instead of heading to his usual spot on the Utah sideline as a reserve, Schulz would be taking the field to lead the Utes as their starting quarterback.
What's more, he was going onto the field turf at one of the more famous and intimidating venues in college football, Autzen Stadium at the University of Oregon.
The visit to Oregon was the latest step in what had been an eventful and sometimes fast-paced journey in three seasons at Utah.
The former Muskego High School standout, who graduated in the spring of 2011, had gone from walk-on to scholarship player to backup quarterback to starter.
Coaches saw potential
Schulz's rapid progression had come as no surprise to the coaches who had worked with him at Muskego.
"Adam has as good an arm as any high school quarterback I have coached or seen," Muskego head coach Ken Krause said. "It's been a great story how he came in as a walk-on, earned his scholarship, moved up the depth chart and then started.
"We (at Muskego) are all proud of him. He is also a great role model, and he has always made good decisions."
Roy Cutshaw, who was Schulz's quarterback coach in his senior year at Muskego, echoed Krause's thoughts.
"The first time I saw him, I thought he had an elite release and good arm strength," Cutshaw said. "He could effortlessly throw 60 yards downfield. He was accurate with the ball and possessed a rare skill set."
Schulz's eventual path to Utah, and to that day in Oregon, actually began in the high school season of 2010, as he led the Warriors to the second round of the WIAA state playoffs.
Cutshaw was in his first season as assistant coach and liked what he saw in Schulz.
"He told me he thought I had some ability," Schulz said.
Cutshaw helps out
After that season, Schulz knew he wanted to play football in college but did not know where he was going.
Cutshaw stepped in to help him.
"He researched many schools, talked to many people and tried to find out where quarterback spots might be open," Schulz said.
At that point, Schulz was being recruited by NCAA Division II and III schools, including all of those in Wisconsin, but Cutshaw had bigger plans.
"I talked with Adam and his parents and asked them if they wanted to try Division I," Cutshaw recalled.
Cutshaw began collecting tape of some of the top recruits in the country that year, including Brett Hundley, who eventually signed with UCLA and led the Bruins to the Sun Bowl this season.
"We watched tape of Hundley and then Adam," the coach said, "and I told him he could throw as well as Hundley does."
Schulz picks Utah
By February of 2011, Cutshaw had a list of 13 Division I teams that needed quarterbacks. That included Utah, which had seen prize recruit Keith Price back out of his early commitment with the Utes to sign with the University of Washington.
"I put the schools in reverse alphabetical order," Cutshaw said, "and my first call was to Utah. I talked with the coaches and Utah soon showed great interest."
Schulz visited the campus that spring. He was able to throw the ball around informally with Utah players as long as the coaches did not watch him or have contact with him.
Cutshaw related that several Utah players later told their coaches to go out and try to sign Schulz.
After that, Schulz made his decision to walk on with the Utes.
"There was an opportunity to play," he said. "It was a big school in a big conference (the Pacific 12). It was a big stage for me."
After redshirting for the 2011 season, Schulz reported to fall camp in 2012. At the end of that camp, he received some good news.
"(Head coach Kyle Whittingham) called some guys (including Schulz) up in front of the team after practice, told us he was offering us full scholarships and gave us a handshake," Schulz recalled. "It was one of the coolest calls I ever made when I called my father and told him.
"I felt a lot of emotion; it was overwhelming. I was so excited to let my parents and coach Cutshaw know."
His first playing experience came in a 49-0 romp over Washington State in which he led a scoring drive in the fourth period. That, however, was his only playing time that season.
Schulz gets chance
Schulz came into the 2013 season second on the depth chart behind sophomore Travis Wilson, who started the first eight games, including a big upset over nationally-ranked Stanford.
Schulz appeared at the end of two games, throwing his first career touchdown pass against Arizona on a 52-yard flea-flicker play.
Wilson, though, suffered a season-ending injury in Utah's ninth game and Schulz took over the starting role.
His first game, as luck would have it, was in Oregon against the perennial power Ducks, who were fighting for the Pac-12 championship.
"During the week (before the game), the idea popped in my head that I would be starting," Schulz said. "I was excited for the opportunity, which I had been working toward for years. I felt some nervousness but it later went away.
"By game day, I was ready to go, and I was excited. I thought it would be a lot of fun."
Schulz passed for 181 yards and a touchdown while also running for a score as Utah played the Ducks tough before falling 44-21.
"It was cool just to get the opportunity," he said. "There is not a bigger stage than Autzen Stadium against the number six team in the country."
Krause said, "I thought Adam held his own and really played well."
In the next week, Schulz hit an even higher level as he completed 21 of 46 passes for 347 yards and touchdowns of 3, 11 and 64 yards in a 49-37 defeat to Washington State.
The 347 yards was the highest passing total in five years at Utah.
"I was more comfortable," Schulz said. "We lost because we just spotted them too many points, but we were able to battle back."
In the season finale, Schulz was finally able to post a victory as he passed for 233 yards and a touchdown in a 24-17 triumph over Colorado.
He sets records
Schulz finished with 761 yards passing in those games, a Utah school record for a quarterback's first three starts.
For the season, he completed 75 passes for 1,008 yards and six touchdowns.
"I was just glad to get a chance to lead the team," he said. "These were stadiums I had seen on TV when I was growing up, and it was great to play on the big stage.
"I came a long way (from walk-on to starter). It was a lot of hard work and dedication, as well as study of the playbook."
He said Cutshaw never let him give up, and he never became discouraged, even as he rode the bench early in his career.
"Coming out of high school, I wasn't really recruited much," he said. "Utah offered me the walk-on, and it was clear that they thought I could play."
Cutshaw said, "I kept telling him that he will get his shot one day and he needs to make the most of it."
Schulz's only regret was that Utah finished the season 5-7 and was not eligible for a bowl game.
"That was disappointing," he said. "We lost some close ones, and we played the third-toughest schedule in the country. I look at teams who played in bowl games, and we were right there with some of them."
Schulz can now look forward to the 2014 season, when he should battle for the starting spot.
"I feel Adam has the strongest arm in the Utah program," Krause said. "He will definitely be in the mix next season."
A NICE RUN
Adam Schulz of Muskego started at quarterback for the University of Utah in three games. Here are his game and season statistics:
OREGON: Schulz completed 13 of 30 passes for 181 yards and a 34-yard touchdown, and ran for a 4-yard score, as the Utes lost 44-21 to the nationally-ranked Ducks on Nov. 16
WASHINGTON STATE: He hit 21 of 46 throws for 347 yards and scores of 3, 11 and 64 yards in a 49-37 defeat on Nov. 23
COLORADO: Schulz connected on 19 of 33 passes for 233 yards and one touchdown, a 16-yard effort to tight end Jake Murphy as Utah won 24-17 on Nov. 30 to close the season
SEASON: Schulz was 75 of 154 (49 percent) for 1,008 yards and six touchdowns...he averaged 168 yards passing per game and had a 110.0 efficiency rating...he also ran for 134 yards and a score, winding up second on the team in total offense at 1,086 yards
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