This is the first in a three-part series highlighting Vanderbilt's graduating student-athletes. Check back on Tuesday and Wednesday for more coverage.
By Zac Ellis
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – When Jacob Schultz received the news, he didn’t tell his family – at least not immediately. Schultz, a senior snapper on Vanderbilt’s football team, instead decided to keep his secret to himself.
The news was good, of course: the U.S. Navy had awarded Schultz a scholarship to medical school as part of its prestigious Health Professions Scholarship Program. Four days after that, Schultz also learned he’d been accepted into Vanderbilt’s School of Medicine.
That influx of good fortune would be tough for most people to contain, but Schultz waited until the moment was right to inform his parents, Jack and Kristine. That moment came during the Commodores’ trip to Shreveport, La. for the Camping World Independence Bowl in late December.
“We were on our way to Christmas mass in Shreveport,” Schultz said. “I waited and showed them my acceptance letters as their Christmas present. It was awesome. They were really excited.”
This week stands as another exciting milestone for Schultz, who will graduate from Vanderbilt with a double major in Molecular and Cellular Biology and Medicine, Health and Society. The Murfreesboro native came to Vanderbilt as a preferred walk-on on the Commodores’ football team. He leaves as a scholarship player, a two-year starter with a 3.9 GPA and a fully funded future in medical school.
“This is the dream,” Schultz said.
Schultz stumbled upon the Navy’s Health Professions Scholarship Program while researching financial aid for medical school. The program covers 100 percent of the cost of medical school and offers a monthly stipend of $2,200 for living expenses. Following commencement ceremonies this week, Schultz will be commissioned into the Navy. Schultz will later serve in the Navy following medical school and his ensuing residency program.
The program seemed a perfect fit for Schultz, whose older brother, Josh, is an Ensign in the Navy. Following deployment overseas, Josh memorably surprised Jacob during Senior Night festivities ahead of Vanderbilt’s game against Tennessee last Nov. 26. “The military has always been big in my family,” the younger Shultz said.
Vanderbilt has also become a big part of Shultz’s life years after former football coach James Franklin offered the Siegel High product a preferred walk-on spot with the Commodores in 2013. That tipped the scales in Vanderbilt’s favor for Schultz’s services; he had also considered his brother’s alma mater, Notre Dame.
Schultz ultimately made the most of his opportunity on the gridiron. After playing behind standout snapper Andrew East as a freshman and sophomore, Schultz served as Vanderbilt’s starting long snapper during the past two seasons. He also held the role of conversion snapper on extra points.
Last month Schultz joined senior offensive lineman Will Holden in being named Hampshire Honor Society recipients by the National Football Foundation. The Hampshire Honor Society recognizes student-athletes who play starting roles on the football field and hold a cumulative GPA of 3.20 or higher.
Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason said Schultz personifies the phrase “student-athlete.”
“Jacob Schultz is the epitome of a Vanderbilt Man,” Mason said. “He’s never had anything given to him. He came here as a walk-on and developed into a scholarship player, working extremely hard on the field and in the classroom. You talk to anyone who’s encountered Jacob Schultz and they’ll tell you they’ve come across someone who is special. He looks to dive into people’s lives and make a difference.”
Though medical school will extend Schultz’s stay on West End, graduation marks the end of his football career. But the middle Tennessee native leaves the Commodores’ locker room with a much brighter future ahead.
“My experience at Vanderbilt has been such a blessing,” Schultz said. “I’ve had great people like Andrew East mentor me along the way. My whole thing with football was to be part of something bigger, and this has been a memory I’ll always be fond of.”