Two times in the past two weeks, Hampton has needed one yard in the worst way.
On both occasions, Jeremiah Schwartz has provided it.
Schwartz, a junior running back who transferred last season from Iowa State, scored the game-winning, 1-yard touchdown in the Pirates' 30-27 overtime win against N.C. Central this past Saturday to give HU, 4-3 and 2-2 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, its first homecoming victory since 2006. The 5-foot-11, 235-pound bruiser also punched in a 1-yard TD as a Hampton rally fell short at Norfolk State on Oct. 15, a week after he reeled off a 26-yard touchdown run in HU's 28-23 win against Princeton.
"Over the past few games in the red zone, he's the guy scoring those points, and those are valuable," Hampton coach Donovan Rose said. "We have to be able to line up and go downhill. … You want somebody that can make his own way, because sometimes you might not have all the blocking up front."
Rose turned to Schwartz, seated next to him, for a telling question-and-answer session gauging the back's speed and strength.
Rose: "What's your 40?" Schwartz: "About a 4.6." Rose: "What's your squat?" Schwartz: "Probably about 550." Rose: "And your bench?" Schwartz: "About 340."
Point proven. "With all that power and his size, he's going to get that yard," Rose said.
At Iowa State in 2009, Schwartz rushed for 264 yards for the Cyclones, but slid down the depth chart as the season progressed.
"It was just a different atmosphere, being so far from home," said Schwartz, a native of Orlando, Fla. "I was probably a little bit more immature back then than I am now. I feel like I'm a lot more mature and appreciative — of the game, not taking so many things for granted, realizing that this is the game that can take me far, and I've got to take every chance I can get."
Chances, though, weren't plentiful for Schwartz at HU in 2010. With then-offensive coordinator Fred Kaiss relying heavily on 5-9, 190-pound Antwon Chisholm (the MEAC rookie of the year after rushing for 607 yards) and fellow scatback Antonio McCloude (5-8, 180), Schwartz didn't have a home in the backfield. Instead, he played 10 games at linebacker, a position he'd never played before, making five tackles and forcing a fumble.
"I give (HU defensive coordinator Keith Goganious) a lot of thanks," Schwartz said. "He believed in me when nobody else really did, so I was thankful for that.
"Coming back to offense this year, I'm glad I did play defense last year, because it allows me to understand the game more from a defensive perspective. When I run the ball, I know how the linebacker is going to attack me and what moves I should make and what moves I shouldn't make."
Big-picture, Schwartz said the largest contribution he can make at HU is simple.
"All the coaches really preach being physical," he said. "I kind of take pride in that, because I feel like that's my role that they need me to play on this team."
Schwartz has played six games this season at linebacker while rushing for 91 yards and three touchdowns. His bowling ball physique and 4.6 yards-per-carry average in Willie Snead's spread offense, however, point to his ultimate value to the Pirates, who need to win their final four games to keep their conference title hopes alive.
"He's a very strong, sturdy guy," Rose said. "My thing now is find ways to give him the ball more. He's a hard runner, he's a downhill runner, and he's got some decent hands. You'll see No. 23 a lot more in these remaining four games."
That suits Schwartz, who cited Hampton's history of producing NFL prospects (such as New York Jets defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis, a third-round pick this past April) as a reason he chose the FCS school, just fine. Thoughts of FBS play still cross his mind, but now that he's showing what he can do at HU, they're fleeting.
"You never really look back on it, but it is a difference," Schwartz said. "Everything has its pros and cons. Being at Hampton, it's so credible. It's so proven. They've got so many people in the league. It makes the stage a little bit more balanced, or equal. I know if I ball out here, I can still get the same opportunity.
"It's almost motivation, just to work even harder."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times