-- By Sarah Wright '23 --
The air is warm and the wind gentle over the grass of Andrus Field as senior offensive lineman Ryan Schutta bravely waves bees aside and dictates his experience with Wesleyan, football, and family. As an avid proponent of sustainability, a passionate choir member, a mentor for students at the MacDonough Elementary School, and one of the four captains of the football team, it can definitely be said that Ryan embodies the multifaceted college experience Wesleyan strives to offer. For someone with such varied interests, and a full schedule, he seems delightfully at ease.
Schutta's hometown, the quiet city of Lansdale, Pennsylvania, is not necessarily known for football fanaticism. While his father was a big fan, even coaching for a short period of time, Schutta mainly grew up watching the local high school team play. Alongside that, he cites the influence of his brother, who played football before taking up rowing for the United States Naval Academy, as the factors that led to him beginning his football journey in fifth grade. When asked why he didn't join sooner, Schutta jokingly stated that, "I was obese when I was young, so I wasn't allowed to play because I would've been with like eighth-graders". Size advantage wasn't his only early hurdle, starting late in the game made keeping up with his more experienced peers difficult. Schutta explained, "I was really bad at the beginning. Being a young kid trying to figure out how to play without experience wasn't easy. It really clicked for me in seventh grade".
Schutta initially wasn't sure whether he'd like to play football in college, but he developed the skills to balance academic and athletic life throughout his high school years. His focus on academics was absolute but he never sacrificed time in the gym or hanging with teammates. His personal self-care regimen is solid but simple and proved critical in his freshman year at Wesleyan, "I learned that balancing myself [with academics and football] isn't just participating in both. You also need sleep. During my freshman year I was overwhelmed, I got like three hours of sleep a night. So I went back to what I was good at, since then my grades have gotten a lot better and this framework has helped me develop."
By sticking to a solid sleep schedule and putting his all into academics, Schutta caught the attention of Wesleyan Head Coach Dan DiCenzo and was asked if he'd like to visit the campus. Of that fateful day, Schutta said only that, " I looked at my dad and said, 'Dad, I have to go to Wesleyan. I think this might be the spot for me.'" Two days after visiting, quite fortuitously on his birthday, Schutta returned Coach DiCenzo's call and committed to Wesleyan as a football recruit.
Throughout his four years as a member of the team and two years as captain, Schutta has learned more about leadership, friendship, and camaraderie than he ever could have imagined. An outsider may see a group of athletes, especially football players, as rough-and-tough men who dominate the field through individual force; Schutta counters that ideology saying, "A lot of times people have a do it yourself mentality and that's all fine and great, but football is a sport where everyone has to do their job or the play won't work out. It teaches people how to be accountable and that's where you see the leaders step up. Who is gonna do the right thing and show the others how to follow? It's not about being the loudest person, it's the little things - checking in with the teammates, keeping up with workouts, being there for each other."
The typical barbarian-Esque caricature the media presents of football players dissolves before warm anecdotes about hanging out with his teammates outside of practice, getting lunch or doing work together. Schutta's dedication to the support and uplifting of his teammates has made him a popular student among the incoming freshmen, including defensive lineman Nick Helbig who says, "Ryan's very passionate about everything he does, brings enthusiasm to every practice, and makes the team feel like a family."
His kind spirit extends outside of his personal circle and into issues of sustainability and equity. For two years he served as the philanthropy chair for his fraternity, arranging food drives, mentoring students at MacDonough, and even starting a recycling campaign that he's extremely proud of. Schutta is currently a government and environmental studies major who credits Wesleyan's supportive academic environment for facilitating his interests. In his first year, he planned to major in finance in hopes of achieving "success" after graduation, but found that it didn't fulfill him, "I realized there are so many other great classes, and I was sidelining my passion about the environment. I learned that I could express that here. Classroom opportunities led to me seeing I could really do this." Schutta spoke excitedly about his summer internship, during which he worked with Pfizer with a focus on helping them develop more sustainable packaging. He cites this as a major career interest and the ideal intersection of environmental activism and social change.
Even as a senior with a bright future ahead of him, Schutta mourns this final year with his teammates. As one of four captains this year, he stands as an example of leadership, work ethic, and passion in the sports community at Wesleyan. He speaks of his transformation of his time here wistfully, "The first two years at Wes, all I focused on was sports. I didn't branch out. Starting my junior year, I decided to embrace the school and it was one of the most rewarding things. Understanding my passion let me understand the University and make a ton of friends who don't play sports. I like to introduce myself to people and be a part of the community."
This go-getter attitude and friendly nature has won him only admiration and respect from his fellow classmates, team members, and faculty. His younger counterparts looking up to him as they see their own futures reflected back. Schutta sums up his Wesleyan experience and simultaneously gives advice to the incoming freshmen, transfer, and international students when he says, "When you come to a school like Wesleyan, really embrace it for what it is and you'll have a good time".