CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids Xavier is making a case that it has the best Class 4A football team in Iowa.
The Saints have a head coach familiar with presenting an argument.
Xavier Coach Duane Schulte’s coaching career were interrupted early on when he attended law school and pursued a profession in law. Schulte traded practicing in a courtroom for football practice and a classroom, guiding Saints in two of his passions.
He will lead the third-ranked Saints (12-0) in an Iowa High School Athletic Association Class 4A state football semifinal Friday against No. 7 Cedar Falls (11-1) tonight at the UNI-Dome, beginning at 7:06. All semifinal and championship games will be televised on KCRG 9.2.
Schulte was a young coach for Tom Kopatich at Davenport Assumption from 1985-87 when he decided to return to school. He attended University of Iowa College of Law, earning his Juris Doctor degree in 1990. Schulte passed the Iowa bar examination in June of that year, working for a law firm in Waterloo before returning to Assumption as a teacher and coach.
“I was in my early 20’s,” Schulte said. “Instead of being in the classroom all day long and going bell to bell I wanted to see what else I could do.
“I kind of wanted a challenge more than anything else.”
Schulte courted his wife, Sherry, while they studied law. They actually took the bar exam at the exact same time. Sherry Schulte remains in law, but Schulte was called back to the classroom.
“I love the law,” Schulte said, “but it was more the business aspect I didn’t enjoy.”
A legal career still impacted his life as Sherry Schulte took a position with a law firm in Sioux City. They were married in 1992 and Schulte left Assumption to become Dean of Students and varsity girls’ basketball coach at Sioux City Heelan. Schulte returned to Cedar Rapids La Salle in 1994, and Sherry Schulte resumed her legal career in Cedar Rapids.
Schulte said Xavier is one of a few high schools, if not the only one, that provides a law class taught by an actual lawyer. Likely one of the few football teams coached by a lawyer, too. His coaching style has some influence from his legal background.
“The thing that really helps when I look back on it, law school makes you think more logically, critically and deductively,” Schulte said. “There’s a lot to the crossing every “t” and dotting every “i” that I think pays off, not just in coaching football, but in any profession.
James Colwell was a special teams contributor for Xavier’s 2006 4A state championship team. He also first considered a legal career while sitting in the front row of Schulte’s law class.
Colwell, now in his second year studying at the UI College of Law, recalled the uniqueness of the course.
“He places an emphasis on analyzing case law, using critical thinking skills and class participation — similar to the law classes I am currently taking,” Colwell wrote in an email to The Gazette. “Coach Schulte’s enthusiasm towards the material covered in class, while illustrating how legal principles impact the lives of everyone, including high school students, is what created my desire to pursue a legal education.”
Jack Boland, an all-conference defensive for Xavier last year who was a sophomore when the Saints reached the 2009 semifinals, is a freshman at St. Ambrose. He, too, is considering a future in law. Boland remembered Schulte’s thoroughness, examining assignments.
“He’d read into them 20 times more than anyone else,” Boland said. “He has such a mind for detail.”
Boland said Schulte carries out a strict routine in both areas. His approach bridges the gap between law and football. Whether it is scouring documents and cases or game film and strategies, he has an eye for the intricacies and the required work ethic.
“He’s very efficient in both,” Boland said about Schulte’s teaching and coaching ability. “He does everything by the book. He has a love for both, really. You can tell he’s serious about it.”
Schulte possesses a knack for presenting the most difficult concepts and presenting them simplistically.
“Coach Schulte’s creativity allows him to explain the most complex football play or most confusing legal case in ways which everyone can relate to and understand,” said Colwell, who has worked with the Hoefer Law Firm in Iowa City, specializing in Workers Compensation, Veteran’s and Social Security Law with a desire to work in administrative law and civil litigation.
The lessons Schulte teaches to his students and his student-athletes are the same. Colwell said he still applies Schulte’s “You get what you earn” motto.
“Whether I was on the football field or in his classroom, I always knew that he would accept only my best effort,” Colwell said. “This mentality made be focus on ways to become a better student on my next assignment or better athlete in my next practice, in other words, never to be satisfied with mediocre because I could always be better.”
Schulte is just as proud of the students who ventured into legal careers. He recalled some, including Colwell, Herb Giorgio, a member of his 1996 La Salle team that posted a 9-0 regular season, and Emily Coleman, a 1999 Xavier graduate, who was one of his earliest law students.
“There are a bunch of former students that go to law school and are practicing attorneys,” Schulte said. “At some point when I retire or hang it up, I’d be just as curious to know how many of our former law students entered the legal profession.”
With the Saints attempting to match the undefeated 2006 campaign, Schulte said many of those players were extremely smart.
“There were a few doctors and a bunch of engineers off that team,” Schulte said. “They did take my class. That was fun teaching them.”
Did they learn from the better lawyer in the Schulte family? Sherry Schulte might have dibs on that distinction.
“There’s no doubt she’s better at everything,” Schulte said. “Without her my career and our house would be a big smoking crater.”
Preparing for a big football game and a big legal case are both stressful. Most of the time, more eyes are fixed on the coach during his performance.
“Not to take anything away from it, but I tell (my wife) at least you don’t have 5,000 people watching you,” Schulte said. “That’s a different kind of stress.”
Many eyes will be fixed on the UNI-Dome as the Saints will try to beat Cedar Falls for the second time this year there. Xavier earned a 24-7 win Week 8, receiving a big game from Wes Gardner, who had 89 rushing yards and a TD. Gardner was a key factor in the Saints 28-7 win over Cedar Rapids Prairie in the quarterfinal round last Friday, rushing for 172 yards and two TDs.
“It’s pretty special,” Gardner said about reaching the semifinals. “I’m really happy for all the seniors that get to go.”
The Saints defense has been impressive all season. Xavier hasn’t allowed more than 14 points in any game, surrendering less than eight points per game. Consistency has been important, and that remains true Friday.
“I think (pressure) is what you make it,” Martinez said. “You just want to stay at a constant level. A constant level is a big thing.”
Schulte contends this team shares some characteristics of the 2006 and 2009 teams that advanced this far.
“They’re coachable and they’ve embraced the grind the way those two teams did,” Schulte said. “It makes them similar.”
A win will be a good closing argument as the school’s best.