About The Author

I like analogies and use them all the time.  The Last Train is an analogy for my journey in life with a diagnosis of terminal cancer.  I also like the analogy that life itself is like a series of train rides.  As we grow older, our lives change, we get off one train and move to another.

So in writing a “bio” about myself, here are the eight train rides that comprise my life.  I’ve included my primary nickname for each train ride, because as my “riders” know, I like nicknames and many times those names help define us.

Train One: I was born in Albert Lea, Minnesota in 1956 and my early years were that of an old black and white TV sitcom, real life Ozzie & Harriet kind of stuff.  Model family.  Dad a newspaper editor, mom a nurse, two older sisters Jill and Judi, church every Sunday, all home cooked meals, never any major conflicts.  Well, I guess my parents did seem to argue every April when dad brought out that green metal box and they spread papers all over the kitchen table.  But all in all, it was a perfect childhood filled with lots of love and good memories.

Nickname: “Jeffer” what my dad called me.

Train Two: We moved to Grand Island, Nebraska in 1963 and I experienced the fun of growing up.  Playing sports in the schoolyard, sleepovers, riding bikes all over town, more sports, and even discovered that girls existed and had my first kiss with cute, little Jenny Painter.

Nickname: “Small” because I was really small growing up, the shortest kid in class, and it was very similar to my last name.

Train Three: Junior and Senior High School.  Emotions start playing a big role.  What can I do to be more popular?  Why are some people so mean?  Am I cool?  Should I ask her to dance? She dumped me…damn that zit in the middle of my forehead!  Happy years with my biggest regret not standing up to the bullies who picked on everyone.  Peer pressure is a powerful force indeed.

Nickname: “Bootdog” a nickname used to make fun of me.  I didn’t like it but didn’t have the guts to tell people not to call me that.

Train Four: College life at the University of Nebraska and new friends at the SAE fraternity and on the Husker tennis team.  Wow, the freedom to make my own decisions was amazing! New friendships become deeper than ever before with some lasting a lifetime.  Going to parties.  Falling in love, getting my heart broken. Becoming a Christian.  Discovering my talents for creativity and leadership. Very formative and fun years!

Nickname: “Schmahl” for obvious reasons.

Train Five: Life in the working world.  I spent 14 years as a sportscaster at KOLN-TV in Lincoln, Nebraska working with a fun, creative group where we constantly challenged each other to get better.  Marriage in 1981 to my Cuban bombshell, Maria.  Experiencing the greatest joy in my life by becoming a father.  Responsibility, real life stuff, I loved it all.

Nickname: “Schmee” the nickname that has stuck with me the longest.

Train Six: 10 years working for the Nebraska Athletic Department as the Director of HuskerVision…perhaps the most fun and rewarding years of my life.  What an experience to be right in the middle of the glory years at Nebraska, three football national championships, traveling across the country, and seeing the students that I hire and train go on to amazing successful careers.  The school song says it best, “There is no place like Nebraska.”

Nickname: “Schmee” what most of my Nebraska friends still call me.

Train Seven: Another 10 years working for the Texas A&M Athletic Department as the Senior Associate Athlete Director for External Operations.  Long title…lots of duties overseeing marketing, sports information, television production, big screens, website, event management, lettermen, broadcasting, and sponsorships.  In addition, I was the administrator for the A&M men’s and women’s golf and tennis teams.  Aggieland…an amazing place where the love and passion of the “former students” for their school is unlike anything I’d seen.

Nickname: “Coach Schmahl” what the golfers and tennis players called me.

Train Eight: Maria and I moved to New York City in April, 2013 to help our son, Zachary, grow his Schmackary’s cookie business.  A great adventure and up to now, the best year of my life.

Nickname: “Schmackdaddy” what they call me at the store.

 

23 thoughts on “About The Author

  1. Jeff,
    I’m so very sorry to hear of your diagnosis. I recall you as being one of the happiest guys in an otherwise chaotic family of the KOLN TV newsroom. I am inspired by your willingness to take us along for the ride. I am open to the lessons, observations, musings and thoughts you will share. I’ll also say a prayer than your journey will be met with comfort and caring people along the way.

    Kindly,
    Lori (Lingo) Lozier
    KOLN-TV 1983-85
    Currently: St Louis, MO

      • Jeff,

        I was at senior at Odell High School in Odell, Nebraska (pop. 300) 1985-1986 when you were working at 10-11. You came to Odell, Nebraska and did a sports story on our 8-man High School Football team in the Nebraska Football State Playoffs. I was fortunate enough to be interviewed by you. I always really looked up to you as I followed your career. You always made an impact on my outlook on Nebraska Sports and the challenges of everyday life.

        Ken Zarybnicky

        Elkhorn/Omaha Nebraska

  2. Jeff, extremely sorry to hear about your cancer. You are strong so I know you will fight till the end.

    Thanks for all you did for A&M athletics. Vivian and I will keep you in our prayers.

    May God bless you and family!

    Raul

  3. Jeff, I have to admit this makes me sad in a unique way for me. I grew up watching you do sports on 10/11 and even after moving away, then coming back but being in a different market, I certainly didn’t forget your name or what you did. I read your post hoping beyond hope I’d see reference indicating a relationship with God. Seeing that gives me hope, and I’d like to share with you, if you don’t mind, a few blog posts I wrote last Fall in advance of seeing my best friend from college die of colorectal cancer.

    I wrote this one shortly after I first found out he was definitely dying pretty soon: http://relevantedge.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/knees-to-the-earth/

    Then I wrote this one a week later after a message in church really grabbed my attention about how God really created us as souls with a body, not the other way around. That impacted perspective for me quite a bit! http://relevantedge.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/knees-to-the-earth/

    That last one was written on October 18th. On October 28th, my brother and I made a trip up to Mitchell, SD to see my friend Brian for the last time. He had weakened over the previous few days and could barely talk, the drugs at least taking away the pain but making him sleepy. You’ve seen this so you know it is about the hardest thing you ever saw in your life. That was quite literally the worst day of my life.

    But something cool happened after Brian passed on Halloween morning. A peace came over me and others and that Sunday, we truly did celebrate Brian’s life. Hundreds gathered in a school cafeteria/gymnasium for food, fellowship, laughter and story-telling after the viewing earlier that evening. On Monday, his funeral was filled with songs he’d chosen, led off by “Wish You Were Here”, the staid Pink Floyd song that was Brian’s favorite. The service was incredible, moving and uplifting, and I want to share with you something intriguing shared by the pastor during the message.

    Early the morning of the 31st, with his family and extended family gathered around in the living room, Brian opened his eyes and looked up into the corner of the room. He said, “He’s here.” His wife asked, “Who is here?” “Jesus”, he replied. “He’s here for me.”

    His wife’s response was funny but heartwarming. She asked, “What does He look like?” 🙂 Brian just said, “He’s here.” Over the next 15-20 minutes, it was clear Brian was very close to going, and as his time came to a close he said several times, “No.” After repeating this 3 or 4 times, he opened his eyes, looked up at his wife and said, “Yes”. And then he passed.

    You know, Jeff, Brian didn’t just pass away. He didn’t just die. Because he was saved, he went into glory and was never afraid. While it was difficult for those of us here, I think we began to realize the reward truly is Heaven, not continuing to live on this earth. Here, in our human bodies, we have all this stuff to deal with: life, politics, health, money, stress, you name it. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be rejoicing! 🙂 God bless, Jeff. God bless.

  4. Jeff, this is Dan O’Brien, a fellow Navigator from UNL days years ago. I look forward to reading of your thoughts and observations on your blog entries.

  5. Jeff, know that we have relived those days of playing in the FCA and your hole in one on # 5 that no one saw. You will always be in my prayers until the train leaves the station. Richard Biondi

  6. I know you’re not a crazy dude looking for sympathy. I think this is an awesome idea. Just beautiful. I enjoyed your first installment. You already have inspired me! My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Write well, my friend. I will be reading it.

  7. My prayers and thoughts are with you Jeff. My name is Jim Rose. I coached basketball at four different high schools in the state of Nebraska in the late 70’s through mid-90’s. I started back up at age 59 last year coaching a group of kids that needed direction and guidance. Six years ago, I was told that I had stage 4 thyroid cancer and surgery was performed in June of 2008. I didn’t go through chemo but 33 rounds of radiation, 13 minutes long each time. Last summer, Dr. Smith from Estabrook Cancer Center in Omaha, told me that I would not need to see him for a year and that the cancer that I once had was gone. Most importantly to me, he said that if it returned, it would not be life threatening as it once was. I know that God brought Mr. Smith, Kat and Jane (PA and Nurse) into my life to help me through this struggle. With God, all things are possible. I will continue to pray that God provides you with healing and strength.

      • Jeff,

        You don’t know me, and I didn’t know you until Brian Rosenthal tweeted your news which also appeared on the LJS their sports blog. I read your first post here and decided to keep checking back because you really have something important to say….and you say it well. Thanks!

        rev.redd@ymail.com

  8. Jeff, Ive really enjoyed the blog and appreciate your honesty in “Benched By God”. Knowing a little of your backstory, I understand how discouraging those experiences must have been. I’ve been working fulltime in jail ministry for the past four years and your final line is similar to what I hear from inmates…and probably is true for most of us at some point — I’m so glad God didn’t give up on me!!!

  9. Jeff – I remember when you played tennis for GI High School and then came to McCook for a summer tournament. You were one of the most polite, honest, friendly and mature individuals I had ever met. I enjoyed following your career in sports broadcasting and telecommunications at NU. I know you have played the game of life exactly as you played tennis – the right way. It has been my honor to have known such an outstanding individual as you and my prayers will also be with you. Coach Irwin – McCook

  10. Hi Jeff- I was sent your blog from a co-worker of mine at TAMUS, and although we’ve never met, I look forward to your posts and updates each time I get an email- you’re a wonderful writer! My Dad was diagnosed with Stage IV Brain Cancer (Glioblastoma Multiforme) in October 2013, and I have related in so many ways to your blog. I was thrilled to hear your last scan and results were good! The feelings- anxiety, stress, and fear- are all so familiar to me on the days leading up to the scans and the day of the results, but I also know how wonderful it feels to hear good news! My family has lived by the motto, “There is only one person who will determine how long our journey here on Earth will be, and he does not wear a white coat or a green mask.” God is truly good and I continue to pray each and every day for you and your entire family. Like every good Aggie does- BTHO Cancer!

    Whitney Glenz

  11. Schmahl, 18 holes in Lincoln this summer. My treat. Now is my chance to finally give you a run on the course. I couldn’t believe what I saw on NETV last night when I saw you. You have an unbelievable attitude and outlook. A 2% chance is all a guy like you needs. You can beat this thing. Not a doubt in my mind. You will probably never know how much of an influence you had on guys like me. Unknowing did more than you could realize. If there is ever anything you need, please let me know. In the meantime, our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

    Brian Schuster

  12. Thanks, Jeff, Maria and Zach, for so generously sharing this experience with all of us. I’m a former 10/11 staffer, now at UNL. I have an idea of the tremendous impact Jeff has had on students who worked with him over the years, and I say “well done.” It’s impossible to know how many people you’ve inspired through this blog, but just know that there are scores and scores of readers out there loading up this last train with their thanks to you.

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