of the Fall
by Jimmie Tramel, Tulsa World Sports
July 1, 2008
media, fans, everybody
underestimated Uwe von Schamann.
We have always treated
the former University of Oklahoma
kicker like he was capable of telling
just one classic story, as if he
was college football's Harper Lee.
of Oklahoma kicker like he was capable
of telling just one classic story,
as if he was college football's
But von Schamann has
many stories, like the time he hitchhiked
from Memphis to Texas as a penniless
teenager, and he is searching for
an author and publisher who can
put the tales in book form.
Of course, the story
everyone asks von Schamann to tell
- and he happily obliges - is the
one that immortalized him in Sooner
Von Schamann booted
an onside kick and hit a 41-yard
field goal with three seconds left
to give OU a 29-28 triumph at Ohio
State in 1977.
Why is that game any
different than any of the other
million games decided by a late
field goal? Because von Schamann
did something before the kick that
seemed just plain crazy. Ohio State
coach Woody Hayes called timeout
to play mind games with the kicker.
Buckeye fans began chanting "block
that kick." Caught up in the
heat of the moment, von Schamann
flailed his arms and led the cheer.
film clip has been viewed more than
32,000 times on YouTube.
Now von Schamann is trying to get
the rest of his stories to the masses
and some of them - especially the
ones co-starring his mother, Karin
- rank high on the peril meter.
"I hope my story
is good enough for a book and hopefully
it might be inspirational for people,
focusing on relationships that we
have with our parents or a parent,"
Von Schamann wants
to write the book to honor his mother,
who grew up in Germany during World
War II and spent a chunk of her
life as a refugee. When little Uwe
came along in 1956, she raised him
as a single parent. He said he never
went without food.
Karin brought her
son to the U.S. for the first time
when he was 14 and neither could
sprechen much English. They intended
to visit friends in Fort Worth,
but had only enough cash for airfare
to New York and a bus ride to Memphis.
If you want all the juicy details,
you will need to buy the book. But
they thumbed a ride all the way
to Texas, and Karin might have even
married one of the folks who offered
them a ride.
Reflecting back on
the hitchhiking trek, Uwe said,
"It's crazy. If you had any
sense, you wouldn't want to do that
"But back in
the '70s it was a little different.
I remember hitchhiking with my mother
when I was just a little boy on
the autobahn there in Germany. I
remember getting a ride with a motorcycle
cop, and I am hanging on for dear
life. Mom was right behind the police
officer, and I was right behind
her on the luggage rack, so I'm
just holding on. We were going 100
miles an hour down the highway.
"I just remember
those days with her. It was always
kind of an adventure. We lived kind
of a gypsy life and moved around
a lot, but she provided for me opportunities
that maybe most people would not
Karin and Uwe settled
in Fort Worth, where he was discovered
by a high school football coach.
Uwe was thrilled to learn he could
get a college education (and, later,
NFL paychecks) just for kicking
an oblong ball.
Von Schamann, 52,
and his mother put down roots in
Norman, where he works as director
of development and fundraising for
the J.D. McCarty Center for children
with developmental disabilities.
The center recently moved to a new
80-acre campus and von Schamann
said a groundbreaking will be held
this fall for summer camp facilities
for special needs kids. The camp
is named in memory of Sammy Jack
Claphan, a former OU lineman who
blocked for von Schamann during
his famous field goal. Claphan worked
with special needs children in his
hometown of Stilwell before dying
in 2001 at age 45.
said about a million dollars must
be raised to complete phase II of
the project. His contact information
is available at www.jdmc.org.
Meanwhile, von Schamann
and his mom are still globetrotting,
if not hitchhiking. They returned
to Germany last fall and she took
photos as he crossed the Berlin
Marathon finish line.
Karin turned 70 in
February, and Uwe took her to Germany
in March for her first ski trip.
It is payback for
a woman von Schamann calls the hardest-working
and most reliable person he has
"It wasn't easy
for her to raise me because she
didn't really have any help from
her family," he said. "It
was just a hard life for her. But
she can live on next to nothing.
She is the ultimate survivor. She
is tough as nails. She is a tiny
woman, but she can outwalk anybody.
Even when we were in Europe, I had
to tell her 'slow down mom.' "
legs run in the family.