It seemed like Karl Schmitz wouldn't be more than a YouTube star. His videos of drilling field goals from 70 yards, and of blasting kickoffs 80 yards with ease, garnered tens of thousands of views online.
But Schmitz never got the reward he really wanted: A shot at the NFL. At 28, he hasn't played in a competitive football game since 2008. As Denver's ABC7 reports, his friends had been teasing him that maybe it was time to abandon the NFL dream -- and Schmitz had decided if nothing happened this year, he'd hang up his kicking cleats.
He traveled down to Arizona to participate in a kicking combine, where he impressed many in attendance. By the time he arrived back home from the trip, he had a phone call from the Broncos' special teams coach.
The team wanted to give him a tryout. He needed to head back to the airport immediately.
Schmitz was on the football field by 9:30 a.m., with several members of the Broncos in attendance. As he warmed up to kick, he recognized one of the faces watching him.
"And out the corner of my eye, I see, I mean, it's pretty easy to recognize who John Elway is," Schmitz told ABC7. "So, I catch that punt, I stop the Jugs machine, I run over, introduce myself, shake their hands, say 'Thank you for the opportunity.'"
After that, Schmitz went to work. He went through a kicking routine, then went to the team locker room for a shower. He found the team cafeteria for a quick breakfast, and while there someone called to him from across the room.
It was Elway. Schmitz walked over to the team president and got good news: Elway wanted to offer him a contract.
Schmitz signed as quickly as he could. If he makes the team, he'll earn $435,000 in the 2015 season. Schmitz has to beat out veteran punters and kickers that are already on the team, but if his YouTube videos are any indication, he has the leg strength to hang with NFL kickers and possibly secure a spot on the team.
After years of kicking with no prospects on the horizon, Schmitz has a legitimate shot at the NFL.