‘Hopped on that opportunity:’ Brown Deer native follows dream of playing football professionally — overseas

BROWN DEER -- "Never give up" is a phrase many people hear, but they might not adhere to it. Jake Schimenz of Brown Deer has never given up, and it's taken him to a place he never imagined. He calls it a dream come true.

"This room is probably the coolest place in the house," Schimenz said. "It brings back a ton of memories."

It's where Schimenz goes for inspiration when he's at home in Brown Deer.

"It started off as a, my dad started putting up my grandfather's pictures. Then it kind of expanded from there. My brothers made state in certain things, so we started putting a few more photos up, and eventually it turned into a wall of, not only of memories from photos, but also just awards that we've won, not only athletically, but academically as well," Schimenz said.

Coming from a family of athletes, the basement walls are a place Schimenz worked very hard to get to.

"It's kind of cool because my dad always says you kind of have to earn the wall, so, it's not just any pictures that go up," Schimenz said.

Always an athlete, taking part in basketball, football, track and baseball in high school, Schimenz has earned a number of spots in the so-called "shrine."

"My ultimate dream was to play professional sports, and I knew, probably, my best option that way, because of the size that I am, I'm only about 5'9", 170, was to play baseball," Schimenz said.

Jake Schimenz

After leaving Brown Deer High School, he was off to Kansas and Sterling College to follow that dream.

"We finished fifth in the nation. My top year, we went to the World Series, so I have absolutely no regrets of going on to play baseball," Schimenz said.

After college, a dream of playing baseball professionally didn't exist. However, he had another option that presented itself in an unexpected way.

"I played intramural football," Schimenz said.

Years before, Schimenz was the quarterback at Brown Deer High School.

"I didn't get my senior year because I blew out my shoulder one game into the season, and so I ended up having surgery on my shoulder. I just felt like I had unfinished business in the sport of football," Schimenz said.

Never giving up on that dream, intramural football turned out to be serendipitous.

"A buddy of mine from Sterling ended up going to play overseas, football,  so I kind of just asked him the process of that. He put an email together, attached his highlight film and sent it out to 300 or so different teams all over the world," Schimenz said.

Schimenz soon did the same thing.

"Never really thought I'd get some responses. Then Brazil was the first team to respond, and so, I hopped on that opportunity," Schimenz said.

Soon, he was on a plane to Sao Paolo -- following his dream of playing sports professionally.

"I was very nervous to go at first," he said. "This was almost like reliving through my high school experience, getting one more chance to play football."

The ultimate destination was a couple hours outside Sao Paolo, in the city of Limeira, and there was no grace period.

"I got off the plane. Got back. We had practice that day. I got there about halfway through practice. Threw my pads on. Started playing right away, and I had about two hours with the guys. The next day we started our first game," Schimenz said.

From there, they went to the state championship -- a first for his team, the Limeira Tomahawks.

"It was just an unbelievable atmosphere. I mean, I'll remember that forever, being a part of that game," Schimenz said.

Now, he's back in Brazil for a second season -- never giving up on his dream.

"I'd love to compete for another state championship and after that, compete for a national championship," Schimenz said.

He's also hoping to get back to his happy place in Brown Deer -- where he can add to the wall of honor.

"I guess a national championship. I've never won one. We got very close in baseball in college. Never competed for a national championship, so that's my next goal and hopefully I can put a huge trophy down here," Schimenz said.

Schimenz is hoping to move up to a first division team in Europe and eventually back in North America in the Arena League or Canadian Football League. Meanwhile, he said he's very happy to be spending this year in Brazil.