When Joe Linta realized he had a Division I football prospect in Luke Schoonmaker, he knew exactly whom to contact: Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown.
Linta coaches football at Hamden Hall in Connecticut, and jokes that he coached with Brown “100 years ago” at Yale University in nearby New Haven, Conn. Linta was the freshman defensive coordinator, and Brown was the varsity defensive coordinator.
“But I called him out of the blue last summer and said to him, ‘Hey, I’ve got a guy you want to look at,’ ” Linta said.
That guy was Schoonmaker, a tight end who would sign with the Wolverines in December. Schoonmaker is the fifth Connecticut product to join the Wolverines and continues a pipeline from New England to Ann Arbor. It’s a product of Brown’s connection to the Northeast, combined with Michigan’s satellite-camp outreach.
Michigan’s recruits from New England in 2017 and ’18
|Player||Position||Hometown||High school||Recruiting year|
|Luke Schoonmaker||TE||Hamden, Conn.||Hamden Hall||2018|
|Tarik Black||WR||Hamden, Conn.||Cheshire Academy||2017|
|Brad Hawkins||DB||Camden, N.J.||Suffield Academy*||2017|
|Ben Mason||FB||Newtown, Conn.||Newtown||2017|
|Kwity Paye||DE||Providence, R.I.||Bishop Hendricken||2017|
|Andrew Stueber||OL||Darien, Conn.||Darien||2017|
*Hawkins attended Suffield (Conn.) Academy for a postgraduate year
The NCAA limited college programs’ involvement in satellite camps in 2017, but by that point, Michigan had taken part in camps across the country, plus Australia and American Samoa — nearly 40 of them in 2016. In particular, Michigan sent coaches to camps in Connecticut, where the Wolverines made connections with New England products. Brown’s influence was notable.
Michigan hired Brown in December 2015, after three seasons at Boston College as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator. Since he entered coaching in 1982, he has spent the bulk of his college career in New England.
Brown helped recruit Schoonmaker in the 2018 recruiting class. He helped recruit offensive lineman Andrew Stueber, wide receiver Tarik Black, defensive end Kwity Paye and fullback Ben Mason in Michigan’s 2017 recruiting class.
Some of those connections came from Brown’s recruiting ties. Brown recruited Stueber when he was the defensive coordinator at Boston College in 2015, and invited him to a satellite camp at Cheshire Academy in the spring of ’16. Brown suggested at Cheshire Academy that Stueber sign up for Michigan’s camp for offensive and defensive linemen.
“Don Brown has definitely had a big part of bringing Connecticut into the picture, and having those guys get to Michigan,” Schoonmaker said. “He’s definitely put Connecticut on the map for football.
“I definitely think Connecticut’s stepping it up with football and the whole recruiting thing. The private and boarding schools and prep schools have really drawn in colleges, and a lot of names are getting out there. It really does start with guys like Coach Brown, who knows New England, and he comes out and gives us a chance, gives us a look. Satellite camps are big, too. Giving guys a chance to show what they’ve got. That’s helped in making Connecticut bigger.”
Linta’s connection with Brown didn’t hurt Schoonmaker’s cause, either. But Linta also looked at it from Schoonmaker’s perspective.
“Look at the mystique, the tradition, Coach [Jim] Harbaugh, Coach Brown,” Linta said. “The better question is, why wouldn’t Luke choose Michigan? Everything that they’ve done. They’ve been on top of things, recruiting-wise. And my relationship with Coach Brown, I feel great about the whole deal.”
Brown and former Michigan tight ends coach Greg Frey primarily recruited Schoonmaker, who signed with the Wolverines in December. Frey’s departure to Florida State earlier this year didn’t deter Schoonmaker. He knew Harbaugh would make a wise coaching hire, and Schoonmaker looks forward to working with new tight ends coach Sherrone Moore.
But Linta’s initial contact with Brown last spring, Schoonmaker said, got the ball rolling on Schoonmaker’s path to Michigan.
“I’m pretty grateful for them, having that working relationship,” Schoonmaker said.