International players add to Southeast Missouri State football team's roster depth

Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Eddie Kocwa

A player from Germany and another from Australia add an international flavor to the Southeast Missouri State football team.

Conrad Schmid is a sophomore offensive lineman from Kremmen, Germany, while Eddie Kocwa is a freshman punter and kicker from Brisbane, Australia.

"They're both good kids," Southeast coach Tony Samuel said. "We'll have to see how they fit in with us."

Schmid, while relatively new to Southeast, is not new to the United States. He spent his senior year of high school in Michigan as a foreign exchange student, then was in the football program at Western Michigan University the past two seasons as a walk-on, although he never played in a game.

Germany is not known for producing football players -- at least not American-style football players -- but Schmid said he became interested in the sport after his first trip to this country.

Conrad Schmid

"I came here in 2005 for the first time on a foreign exchange visit and my host brother was playing football," he said. "I started liking it, so I started playing football back in Germany in 2006."

Schmid has the size for it -- he's listed as 6 foot 5 and 311 pounds -- and he became proficient enough during his year of American high school football to attract some attention from Football Bowl Subdivision member Western Michigan.

Schmid said it became apparent that he would have a hard time seeing the field at Western Michigan, so he began searching for another program.

"I looked around for a better fit. I kind of knew I wasn't going to ever play at Western Michigan," said Schmid, who speaks English well. "I just looked around on the Internet for FCS schools because I didn't want to sit out. I liked this one and called them."

Schmid said he came into contact with Southeast offensive line coach Brian Boerboom and things worked out for the transfer, which was accomplished in time for Schmid to participate in spring practice.

Schmid is eligible to play immediately by moving down to the Football Championship Subdivision level.

Now the question is if he'll be ready enough to contribute this year. Samuel said he likes Schmid's attitude but he still is plenty raw.

"He has a long way to go, but he's working at it," Samuel said.

Added Schmid: "I'm making progress. It could be a lot better."

While Schmid has been in the U.S. for a while and went through spring drills at Southeast, Kocwa first stepped foot in this country in January and only joined the Redhawks in time for preseason camp.

Kocwa said he primarily played soccer and rugby back home before being introduced to American-style football about two years ago.

"I got involved with a couple of punters who had been over here [in the U.S.] to play college and I liked it," he said.

Kocwa joined a club football team in his native country and soon began kicking. He's pursued it ever since, ultimately sending out e-mails to various schools. He said Southeast special teams coach Chris Norris contacted him and he paid a visit to Cape Girardeau.

"I came here in January to check it out. It was my first time to the U.S.," Kocwa said. "I liked it here. It seemed to have a good vibe."

The 23-year-old Kocwa, who is among Southeast's oldest players, has enjoyed his time in Cape Girardeau so far.

"I like it. It's nice and warm. Right now it's cold back home," he said.

Southeast returned its regular kicker (Drew Geldbach) and punter (Joe Vucic) from last season, but Kocwa plans to give them a run for their money as he battles for playing time. He is especially adept at the rugby-style punt that many college teams have utilized over the past few years.

"He has a unique style, but he's got a good leg," Samuel said. "He can kick that ball."

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