On and Off the Gridiron: Matt Schaub is Making a Difference by Keith Calkins
Our long, sweltering, summer has been drenched in NFL strike–inspired inactivity. But the Houston Texan’s quarterback was anything but idle and focused much of his summer on giving. The people who know Matt and Laurie Schaub were not surprised.
Schaub has already given Houston football fans all they could have expected and much more. The unproven, little used, back–up QB acquired from Atlanta four years ago is now the face of the Texans’ franchise–committed, confident and professional.
Schaub’s quarterbacking dates back to his childhood on the outskirts of Philadelphia in West Chester, PA. Even then, he displayed great skill, poise, smarts, dedication and talent. In 2009, he guided the Texans to their first-ever winning season. He threw for 4,770 passing yards, the best passing record in the league for the year and the sixth highest total in NFL history. His efforts won him a trip to the Pro Bowl where he was named MVP. In 2010, he added 4,370 more yards, placing him among only 18 quarterbacks in NFL history with multiple, 4,000-yard passing seasons. Of those 18, only five have ever thrown for more than 4,300 yards in consecutive seasons. And only a hand full have executed with Schaub’s lethal combination of high quarterback efficiency rating and low interception turnover.
His on the field leadership is mirrored in Gr8 Hope, the foundation he and his wife, Laurie, started. “We’ve done a lot of things with different organizations and different charities, but Laurie and I really wanted to start our own foundation,” Schaub says. “We had an idea on a name a few years ago, but we didn’t know what direction we wanted to go.”
The foundation’s name is an obvious spin on the number eight, Schaub’s jersey number. And the direction is now crystal clear–bring healing to children with medical needs. “After going to Texas Children’s Hospital and visiting and spending quality time with these kids you just realize how they can influence your life,” Schaub says. “When we had our daughter (Madison) last year it just hit us between the eyes that this is where we wanted to go and there’s no looking back.”
Matt and Laurie were immediately taken, if not overwhelmed, with Texas Children’s Child Life department and its goal of normalcy for children battling to live one more day. After meeting families, doctors and specialists, they knew their foundation should support the department’s efforts. “It was kind of a no–brainer to help kids out,” Laurie says. “We have one little one and two on the way, so that just solidified where our hearts were—to make a difference for children.”
This summer the Schaubs organized and spearheaded a weekend fundraising gala and golf get–together. They raised $108,000 for Texas Children’s new West Campus. The dollars will be used to equip and furnish a Child Life Playroom on the third floor of West Campus, Houston’s first community hospital designed, built and equipped exclusively for children. “I hope it creates smiles and a sense of promise for them,” Matt says. “When you have play, you forget about all the treatments you’re undergoing. It helps you be a kid again. And we want that for those children.”
The children come to Houston from all corners of the country. They are in dire need of healing and recovery as they fight debilitating and life–threatening diseases, along with the stress and psychological effects brought about by their conditions. Once here, in the Child Life Playroom, they can simply forget, if only momentarily, why they’re in a hospital.
On the field, the single gauge that matters most to Schaub is winning. After 54 Texan starts, his record is a pedestrian 25-29. And last year was a shipwreck: 10 losses. Each and every week, the team seemed to create new and excruciatingly painful ways to lose.
For full and lasting effect, Schaub chose to relive the wretched details throughout his off–season; better to assure history never repeats. “Every day I thought about them,” Schaub says. “I sat (at home) and watched some of the copies I had from television and just rehashed those thoughts and was just chomping at the bit to get back to work.” His work was delayed by the NFL strike.
In the midst of the labor unrest, Schaub consistently gave his teammates structure by orchestrating make–shift, group workouts, including a mini–camp of sorts, for 35 teammates at Rice Stadium. He barked instructions in the midst of blazing, 100 degree temps, beating down on the artificial turf just as if he were leading the teams regularly scheduled, off–season drills at Reliant Park.
Honing skills, maintaining focus and conditioning were benefits, but the true goals were team–building, bonding and camaraderie. And, for comic relief, the simulated practices even included Schaub as a pass grabber. “It’s more or less just fill in the bodies for the defense,” Schaub said during a break in the mid–June sweat shop. “So they know where receivers are. It just so happens they don’t cover because they don’t respect me out there. So I get a few catches.” But don’t expect that in real games. “It’s not part of my repertoire,” he says.
Schaub fully understands this season is an opportunity for the Texans to finally crash the NFL playoff party for the first time in franchise history. He has his most balanced offensive team ever with tight-end Owen Daniels and all-world, wide–out Andre Johnson healthy again. And Arian Foster is ready to repeat his performance from last year—2,200 total offensive yards and 18 touchdowns.
This next Texans’ outfit is stacked with more talent and experience than ever before, on offense and defense. The Texans clearly take their lead from Schaub like never before.
“I’m coming on my fifth year here,” Schaub says. “So with each year you get a little bit more of that.” His leadership goal is clear—making it to the playoffs.
Schaub has high hopes for this season; however, he readily admits, professional success cannot replace the satisfaction he enjoys through the kids he meets with Gr8 Hope. “They are the most positive and inspirational people out there,” he says.
The mission of GR8 HOPE Foundation is to provide resources and support to promote lasting improvements and bring healing to children with medical needs, hope for our future generations, and happiness to the children and their families enduring medical challenges. To make a donation go to www.gr8hopefoundation.com.