Skip to main content

Where are they now: Cory Schlesinger

Cory Schlesinger could have thought he had barged through every hurdle and obstacle in his way to having a successful career in pro football with his heroic performance Nebraska's win over the Miami Hurricanes in the 1995 Orange Bowl.

Legends and golden memories are made of what Schlesinger did in that game. In their moment of need, the Cornhuskers gave the football to their fullback, and Schlesinger tucked it under his arm and delivered.

Schlesinger scored two touchdowns. His first one, with a vital two-point conversion tacked on, tied the game at 17-17 with 7:38 left in the game.

The second one, with 2:46 left, gave the Cornhuskers a 24-17 win and the first national championship for head coach Tom Osborne.

Certainly, the NFL would come calling for a fullback who had come through with such a clutch performance.

There was no call.

When Schlesinger walked off the field, he had no indication that he had not played his last game of football.

"I came from a pretty good program at the University of Nebraska," Schlesinger said the other day with typical understatement.

"I didn't go to the Combine. I didn't go to the Senior Bowl. It was kind of an interesting thing. I didn't have an agent.

"I was preparing myself for life after football."

Schlesinger, who turns 48 in mid-June, always had a plan for life after football. He graduated from Nebraska with a desire to go into teaching. He has put that plan to use, teaching in the Allen Park system for 12 years.

That plan would be put on hold.

Fullbacks were not a high priority for NFL teams even 25 years ago, and they're even less so today. About half of the NFL teams do not have a designated fullback on their roster, using tight ends and offensive linemen as blockers in that role.

But football was not done with Schlesinger in 1995. There would be a place for him in the game, as fans of the Detroit Lions know from watching him perform with the all-out, bone-crunching style that made him a popular player in his 12-year career.

He played 181 games for the Lions before retiring after the 2006 season.

He got a chance to give the scouts another look at Nebraska's Pro Day workouts.

"A lot of coaches saw me," Schlesinger said. "They told me they didn't have me on their radar. They want to bring me in and talk to me."

The Raiders, Packers, Panthers and Lions were among the teams that showed interest, Schlesinger said.

It was the Lions who backed up their interest with their actions. They drafted Schlesinger in the sixth round, with the 192nd pick overall.

All Schlesinger wanted was a chance, and he got that. But the Lions had not drafted him to run the ball or catch. it. That was spelled out to him in his first meeting with legendary offensive coordinator Tom Moore.

"He told me, 'you're not going to run the ball; you're not going to catch the ball,'" Schlesinger said. "That sounded like a great job for me."

As a rookie, he played all 16 regular-season games – mostly on special teams – with two starts on offense. He had one catch for a two-yard gain and one rush for a yard.

In his second year, Schlesinger got exactly what Moore had predicted – no catches, and no carries, despite playing all 16 games again with one start.

Schlesinger's role on offense would expand through the years, depending on the coaching staff's offensive philosophy. He also would remain a core special teams player.

He had 129 catches from 2001-03, with career highs of 60 catches for 466 years in 2001. His career high for rushing yards was 154 in 2001.

What never changed throughout his 12 years was his intensity, either as a lead blocker or pass protector on offense, or running downfield on special teams to break up the wedge.

Schlesinger knew he had to make an impression early as a rookie, and he recalls his performance in a short-yardage drill that might have cemented his place on the roster.

Before that, he simply enjoyed being on the field in training camp with pro players.

"The cool part was just being with the players," he said. "I had a chance to be there with Chris Spielman. He's the guy I wanted to be with the most -- how he prepared himself, how he practiced, how he played.

"He's one of the guys I looked up to my first year. He actually gave me the nickname 'Anvil.' Keep pounding. Keep coming back.

"For the most part, the physical part, I enjoyed that part of the game. I liked hitting the wedge. I liked blocking.

"Breaking the wedge up, it was pretty fun, actually. I got a chance to do some of my hardest hits out there and do some things that some players don't want to do."

Schlesinger recalled a memorable training-camp matchup with Spielman as a rookie.

"We had a live goal line drill one day," he said. "On three plays it was me and Spielman. I'd say I had a pretty good day that day.

"There were three good plays that kind of sealed the deal for me staying with the Lions. I was looking to go out and get three good shots. It was just three good solid blocks. Put it that way.

"That's probably one reason I made the team."

Related Content