Todd Herremans played 11 seasons in the NFL, battling big-name defensive linemen every Sunday and ascending to celebrity status in Philadelphia.
But make no mistake: He’s still a small-town, Ravenna boy at heart.
“We lived in downtown Philly for the last 10 years and then the kids came along,” said Herremans, a 2001 graduate of Ravenna High School. “I tried to make it work, but one day it just hit me that I have no idea how to raise kids in the city.”
So, in a scene straight out of the 1960’s television comedy “Green Acres,” in January he loaded up his wife, Elizabeth, daughter Olivia (5) and son Jaxon (3) and moved to a farm in West Chester, a small town about 50 miles east of Philadelphia.
One of the goals of the move has been to provide his kids with a childhood something like his idyllic upbringing in Ravenna, a rural village in eastern Muskegon County with about 1,200 residents.
Herremans’ father, Paul, is approaching his 31st season as the varsity baseball coach at Ravenna, despite retiring as a math teacher in 2010. He has also coached football and basketball at Ravenna since the 1970s and, as a result, his sons John, Scott and Todd basically grew up under the bleachers.
“I remember being really little and I couldn’t wait to be old enough to be the bat boy,” said Todd Herremans, now 38, whose mother, Marilee, was also a teacher. “Then once I did that, I was itching to put on the pads and the uniforms. Then I couldn’t wait to be on the varsity.”
He grew up to be a four-sport athlete at Ravenna – starring in football, basketball and baseball (along with helping out the track & field team in his senior year, throwing the discus and shot put) – and he credits playing multiple sports for helping him not only make it to the NFL, but to stay there for 11 years and remain healthy enough to start 126 of 135 career games.
“There’s no doubt playing other sports helped me make it to the NFL – the footwork I developed playing basketball and things like that,” said Herremans. “But it really helped me stay there. When you play different sports you are in different scenarios and fill different roles on each team. I think I was more adaptable than some of the other guys I played with.”
Herremans earned all-West Michigan Conference honors in football, basketball and baseball at Ravenna, but he was a late bloomer in many ways as his skill set grew into his big frame.
He went on to start for four years at Saginaw Valley State, playing in 48 games and starting 40 of them at left or right offensive tackle. During his senior year at Saginaw Valley he earned first-team Little All-America honors from The Associated Press, which put him firmly on the NFL radar.
He was selected in the fourth round of the 2005 NFL Draft, when the Eagles traded up to take him with Green Bay’s pick (126th overall). He started his first NFL game Nov. 27, 2005, and remained a fixture on the Eagles’ offensive front for the next decade.
Herremans, who played at 6-foot-6 and 323 pounds, was known for his consistency and durability, as well as his versatility – playing every interior line position for the Eagles except for center.
The versatility didn’t stop there, however, as he is one of the few interior offensive linemen in NFL history to catch two touchdown passes, one each in 2008 and 2010.
After being released by the Eagles in 2015, he was picked up right away by Indianapolis, where he started two games.
These days, Herremans spends much of his time taking care of his children at the farm in West Chester and also at his cottage on Torch Lake in northern Michigan.
“I do a lot of dadding,” he said with a laugh.
Since his retirement, Herremans and a partner started BodyChek Wellness, a company that makes hemp-based products to help with wellness, balance and recovery. He is also a member of Athletes for Care, a group that advocates for athletes on various issues of health and safety, including the use of cannabis as medicine.
He looks forward to the summer months, when he spends most of his days at his northern Michigan cottage, allowing him a perfect place and opportunity to catch up with his family and friends from both Ravenna and Saginaw Valley.
Even better is having time to watch his kids grow up, which he said would have been nearly impossible during his NFL playing days.
“I have a lot of fun being with them,” Herremans said. “Ever since we moved out to the country, my son has been obsessed with tractors and tools. I love that.”
2020-21 Made in Michigan
July 29: Loy Norrix Career Prepped Crocker for U-M Success, Law Degree Pursuit - Read
July 19: Top PGA Pro Finish Latest Greatest Highlight as Cook Continues Climb - Read
July 16: TC West Standout Renews Ties to Titans, Cheers Past Teammates' Gold Pursuit - Read
July 8: Caro Champs Find Common Ground Again as Mental Health Providers - Read
June 28: Michigan's Minor Leaguers Making Up for Lost Season - Read
PHOTOS: (Top) Past Ravenna standout Todd Herremans, here with the Philadelphia Eagles, spikes after scoring in 2008. (Middle) Herremans with wife Elizabeth and children Olivia and Jaxon. (Below) Todd’s high school memories include kicking field goals and earning the Homecoming crown. (Top photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Eagles; middle photo courtesy of the Herremans family; below photos courtesy of Ravenna High School.)
LAWRENCE — If redshirting was a thing in high school, at least two coaches at Lawrence would stick that label on senior John Schuman.
“We don’t want to lose this kid ever,” said Derek Gribler, the Tigers’ first-year varsity football and baseball coach.
“If we could put a red shirt on this kid every year, we would.”
Athletic director John Guillean, who also coaches varsity basketball, agreed.
“He is what we strive to have all our student-athletes achieve: high GPAs, multi-sport athletes, good, overall well-rounded human beings,” Guillean said.
Schuman has participated in five of the seven boys sports Lawrence sponsors.
As a freshman and sophomore, Schuman played football, wrestled, ran track and played baseball.
He had wrestled since he was 4, and went from the 119-pound weight class as a freshman to 145 the following year. That sophomore season he qualified for his Individual Regional. But as a junior, he traded wrestling for basketball.
“My older brother wrestled at Lawrence, so I would come to practices,” he said. “I quit for a couple years (in middle school) because I liked basketball, too. It was hard to do both. Obviously, in high school, I still struggled with choosing,” he added, laughing.
Guillean is thrilled Schuman made the switch.
“He’s 6-(foot-)4, he’s super athletic, defensively he’s a hawk, offensively he can put the ball in the bucket. But really, aside from his skills, just that positive attitude and that positive outlook, not just in a game, but in life in general, is invaluable,” the coach said.
Last season, Schuman earned honorable mention all-league honors in the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference, averaging 9.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.
Lawrence left the BCS for the Southwest 10 Conference this year, joining Bangor, Bloomingdale, Hartford, Decatur, Comstock, Marcellus, Mendon, Centreville, White Pigeon and Cassopolis. Schuman and senior Tim Coombs will co-captain the Tigers, with Guillean rotating in a third captain.
At a school of fewer than 200 students, Schuman will help lead a varsity team with just nine – joined by seniors Andy Bowen and Gabe Gonzalez, juniors Christian Smith, Noel Saldana, Ben McCaw and Zander Payment, and sophomore Jose Hernandez, who will see time with the junior varsity as well using the fifth-quarter rule.
“I attribute a lot of (last year’s successful transition) to my coach, helping me get ready because it wasn’t so pretty,” the senior said. “But we got into it, got going, and my teammates helped me out a lot.”
Gribler is one coach already looking ahead to spring sports after seeing what Schuman did during football season.
In spite of missing 2½ games with an injury, the wide receiver caught 50 receptions for 870 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“I just like the ability to run free, get to hit people, let out some anger,” Schuman laughed.
Gribler said the senior is “an insane athlete.
“On top of his athletic ability, how smart he is in the classroom (3.88 GPA), he helped mold the culture we wanted this year for football. He got our underclassmen the way we wanted them. He was a big asset in many ways.”
Schuman earned all-conference honors for his on-field performance in football as well.
“I would say that my main sport is football,” the senior said. “That’s the one I like the most, spend the most time on.”
In the spring, Schuman competed in both track and baseball, earning all-conference honors in both.
“Doing both is tough,” he said. “I have to say my coaches make it a lot easier for me. They help me a lot and give me the ability to do both, so I really appreciate that.
“Throughout the week you’re traveling every day, it seems like. Baseball twice a week and track, but it’s worth it.”
Schuman’s commitment is so strong that he made a special effort not to let his teammates down last spring.
“He qualified for state in the long jump and did his jumps up in Grand Rapids, then he drove all the way to Kalamazoo to play in the District baseball game,” Guillean said. “That speaks volumes about who this kid is. He did his jumps at 9 a.m. (but did not advance) and made it back to Kalamazoo for a 12:15 game.”
Big shoes to fill
As the youngest of four children of Mark and Gretchen Schuman, the senior was following a family tradition in sports.
Oldest brother Matthew played football, basketball and baseball as well as competed in pole vault and wrestling.
Middle bother Christopher competed in football, wrestling and baseball.
Sister Stephanie played basketball, volleyball and softball.
“I like to say they blazed a pretty good trail for me at this high school,” Schuman said.
As for feeling pressure to live up to his siblings, “I used to when I was younger, but now I feel like I’ve made my own way and done enough things to be proud of that I’m happy with it.”
His own way led him to achieve something none of the others did.
He was named the Tigers’ Male Athlete of the Year, just the third junior to earn the boys honor over the last 25 years.
“I was very honored to win that as a junior,” Schuman said. “There were good athletes in the grade above me. I guess hard work pays off.”
Guillean said while Schuman is “darn good at every sport here,” an athlete does not have to be a “top dog” in every sport.
“Learn how to take a back seat,” he said. “Learn how to be a role player. That will make you a better teammate and a well-rounded human being.
“Johnny has that work ethic, in the classroom, on the field, on the court, on the track. It doesn’t go unnoticed and, obviously, he’s reaping the benefits now.”
Pam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Lawrence’s John Schuman has participated in five varsity sports during his first 3½ years of high school. (Middle) Lawrence athletic director John Guillean. (Below) Lawrence football and baseball coach Derek Gribler. (Action photos courtesy of John Schuman; head shots by Pam Shebest.)