Brian Schottenheimer, 24, is a Generation X kid trapped in a '50s football mentality. But he's not complaining. Schottenheimer, the son of Chiefs coach Marty Schottenheimer, is in his first year as the St. Louis Rams' offensive intern, a job that pays $9,600 annually. He has the following statement taped to a wall in his Rams Park cubicle, just outside offensive coordinator Jerry Rhome's office: "The best kind of pride is that which compels a man to do his very best when no one is watching."
"Sometimes," says Schottenheimer, "I'll get a call in the evening from some of my old school buddies in Florida telling me they're going out for some beers and they wish I was there. I'll think, God, I've got five hours of work left. Then I think, There's no place else I'd rather be. Lots of people have nine-to-five jobs and are miserable. I work 16-hour days and love it. I love the chess game that football is."
Schottenheimer may have gotten his foot in the door because of his name, but that might be his only break. To be successful he must put in 70-hour weeks during the season and prove his mettle. Monday through Thursday the average workday of this aspiring NFL coach can stretch from 7:30 a.m. to 12:15 a.m. Friday and Saturday are six to eight hours shorter, and he spends Sunday afternoons upstairs in the coaches' booth.
Using a computer, he helps diagram 45 to 50 pass plays in the Rams' weekly game plan, which isn't finalized until Tuesday night. He puts those plays in binders that are distributed to offensive players and coaches on Wednesday morning. That night he assists in diagramming additional pass plays for the offense to use in the red zone. He is constantly at Rhome's beck and call. (One Rhome request as St. Louis prepared for a Nov. 16 game against Atlanta: Identify the Falcons' coverages and figure out how often they use each one.) A former backup quarterback at Florida, Schottenheimer often pilots the scout team, the unit that runs the offense of that week's opponent against the Rams' first-team defense in practice. Every week he helps break down the opponent's defense, scrutinizing tape of four of its games for tendencies. He keeps meticulous notes. When time allows on Monday and Tuesday nights, he sits in on coach Dick Vermeil's offensive brainstorming sessions. On game days he charts plays and defensive coverages, occasionally alerting Rhome to the opposing defense's tendencies in particular situations and reminding coaches of the Rams' run-pass ratio.
He doesn't say much. "I keep my mouth closed, I keep my ears open, and I write everything down," Schottenheimer says. (Example: On a legal pad headlined 10-1-97, he printed something he learned from Rhome that day: "Coaching not only involves showing players how to do something. It's explaining why we do it.")
He likens the experience to any job a recent college graduate might have—starting at the bottom and working his way up. "No job's beneath me," he says. "I have no delusions of grandeur, but I would like to be a quality-control coach [an assistant who analyzes tendencies of his own team's offense and the opposition's defense], then a quarterbacks coach or wide receivers coach, and then hopefully an offensive coordinator and head coach. I'm lucky, because I've gotten to be around so many great coaches—my dad, coach Vermeil, Steve Spurrier, Glen Mason, Al Saunders, Jerry Rhome, Jim Hanifan—and I'm so young."
That said, he writes the following on the top of his legal-pad page: "Be sure to write down things you learn from every coach you come in contact with."