SALT LAKE CITY — With a name like Caleb Schlauderaff, it seems like it would be difficult to go through life and not be noticed. There are plenty of John Smiths in the world, but there can't be more than one Caleb Schlauderaff.
Yet the starting left guard for the unbeaten Utah football team may be the most invisible man on the whole squad. Schlauderaff probably gets less attention off the field than any Ute starter or anyone on Utah's offensive line, which happens to lead the nation in fewest sacks allowed.
But that's just the way Schlauderaff likes it.
"I don't really care about that," he said. "I kind of like being (unnoticed), so I can walk to school and no one knows who I am. I can go out and no one recognizes me as a football player. I like being under the radar — it makes life a lot easier."
Schlauderaff says whenever he goes out with teammates "people will say, 'Oh that's Jordan Wynn.' I'm just the big guy next to him."
Yeah, just a big, 6-foot-4, 302-pound guy.
Offensive lineman in general don't get much attention, compared to guys like Wynn and running backs Eddie Wide and Matt Asiata or Mr. Everything Shaky Smithson. However, even among the offensive linemen, Schlauderaff seems to get lost in the shuffle.
Last year, tackle Zane Beadles got a fair amount of attention as a first-team All-American and the winner of an NCAA post-graduate scholarship. This year, highly-touted JC transfer John Cullen, was the guy everyone wanted to talk to in fall camp since he was Beadles' replacement and the new guy on the O-line.
When starting center Zane Taylor was named captain just prior to the season, he became the center of attention. Then when Taylor got injured early in the season and missed a game, right guard Tevita Stevens got some publicity when he moved to center to cover for Taylor.
Schlauderaff? All he's done is perform superbly for four years as a starter on an offensive line that is among the best in the nation this season. In five games, the Ute line has given up just one sack and it came against the backups in a rout of New Mexico.
If you look at the offensive line season statistics (yes, they actually keep such things), Schlauderaff is No. 1 with a 91 percent grade for plays won (the only player over 90 percent) and is far and away the leader in "pancakes" with 10 on the season (compared to three for the next best guy)..
But the engaging Schlauderaff isn't bothered he and his fellow offensive linemen don't receive the attention the skill players do.
"We just try to show up and do our job every day," he says. "If you're not getting noticed as an offensive lineman, it's probably a plus. Because usually the only time you get noticed as an offensive lineman is when you mess up — when you get a penalty or allow a sack."
The latter hasn't happened to the starters all season, which is incredible considering the Utes have thrown 139 passes so far this year.
"It's a matter of pride for the O-line," Schlauderaff says. "We've taken a lot of reps together. We've pretty much had the same starters for two years and have developed great continuity. If you play with someone long enough, you start to understand what they're doing before they even make calls or the defense even reacts."
Schlauderaff came to Utah in 2006 from Washington and is the only player on the team from that state. A former graduate assistant named Dan Finn was impressed with some tape he saw, after which offensive line coach Charlie Dickey recruited Schlauderaff to Utah.
"I recognized it as a great school with a great reputation as a BCS buster and this was by far the best football school that recruited me," Schlauderaff said. "I decided to come down here, and I'm happy I did. We've had a lot of success here."
An excellent student, Schlauderaff is a three-time All-MWC academic. He comes from a medical family with a father who is a doctor and a mother who is a nurse. So he must have had the best of medical care growing up, right?
"You know the old saying, a shoemaker's son goes shoeless? I remember in fourth grade I broke my arm and it took me three or four days before I got an X-ray on it. My dad just gave me children's Tylenol," Schlauderaff said with a laugh.
Ute coach Kyle Whittingham agrees that Schlauderaff probably hasn't received the recognition he deserves, but he couldn't be happier to have him manning the offensive line for a fourth straight season.
"Caleb's a great kid," said Whittingham. "He's a smart kid with high character. He's been a mainstay on our offensive line for a lot of years now. What you get from Caleb is consistency every day at practice, every week, every game. He always plays at a high level and is an integral part of our team right now."
Toward the end of an interview last week, when told last week he would be the subject of a future story in the newspaper, Schlauderaff smiled and said, "Don't blow my cover, man."
Sorry, man, it's already been blown. And it's about time.
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