Catching up with Bill Schroeder

At the time, it was a football fairy-tale: A Wisconsin boy grows up to play for the Green Bay Packers. Finishing that career here was the storybook ending that former Packer Bill Schroeder was hoping for, but he's making the best of his new job with the Detroit Lions.<P>

"I really wish I could have ended my career in Green Bay...[but] Detroit came along, and made me really want to try something new," Schroeder said.

Schroeder's football dreams came true in 1994, when after just one year of collegiate football at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse the Sheboygan native was drafted by Green Bay.

"I was always a Packers fan," Schroeder offered. "It was really a dream to be drafted into the NFL, and to be selected by the Packers was just icing on the cake."

Even though Schroeder is a life-long Packer fan, his latest relocation isn't the unexpected twist of his career. While his heart remains in Green Bay, his job has taken him across the country, across the Atlantic Ocean, and now across Lake Michigan.

The first bumps in the road came after his arrival. A sixth-round choice, Schroeder was assigned to the Packers practice squad after being released from the active roster on the final cutdown of training camp and spent most of the `94 season there. During training camp in 1995 Schroeder was traded to New England.

"At first it was really tough being away from Green Bay, both the organization and my family," he said of the change. "At the same time, I knew it was going to be a good opportunity for me in New England and when I made the transition things were going great."

Schroeder suffered a broken bone in his foot in the Patriots final preseason game and spent the entire 1995 season on injured reserve. After the 1995 season, Schroeder was released by the Patriots.

"I was sitting around for a week wondering if the NFL was really for me," Schroeder said. "The first year I didn't get to play much in Green Bay other than the two playoff games and I went to New England and was on IR the whole year. I began to wonder if it was all really worth it or if I should continue my career in education, which is why I went to college."

Schroeder decided to stick it out in the NFL and was re-signed to the Green Bay practice squad on August 28, 1996.

"I think moving from being where I wanted to be in Green Bay to the whole other side of the country where I didn't really want to be at first was something God just wanted me to experience," he said. "But coming back to Green Bay made me realize that if you're going to play in the NFL you have to play your heart out every single play and stick with it."

Schroeder spent the entire 1996 season on the Packers' practice squad and as fate would have it, his then-current team beat his former team in Super Bowl XXXI in New Orleans.

During the following off-season, Schroeder's career came to another crossroad when he was allocated to the Rhein Fire of the then World League.

Schroeder made the most of the opportunity. He finished second in the league in receiving yards and catches and posting six touchdowns. He was named to the all-World League squad and more importantly, logged lots of reps in an NFL-style atmosphere.

"There's no question that was the turning point of my career," Schroeder says of his stint with Rhein, where he grew as a player and teammate. "I learned what it's like to help out and be a leader on a team as well."

When he returned from Europe, armed with game experience and a renewed confidence, Schroeder was able to earn a spot on the Packers active roster for the 1997 season.

His productive career as a Packer has been well-documented as Schroeder worked his way up. He reached the 1,000-yard mark in 1999, and all but got there the past two seasons. Last season, Schroeder pulled in 53 catches for 918 yards and a career-best nine touchdowns.

The position was due for a shake-up, however. With the departure of Antonio Freeman and the addition of former Patriot Terry Glenn made Schroeder, times were changing for the Packer receiving corps. Schroeder was not offered a contract for the 2002 season.

This time, Schroeder didn't have to venture far as the rival Detroit Lions sought his services.

"I really wish I could have ended my career in Green Bay, that's something I really wanted to do," Schroeder said. "But Green Bay didn't offer me a contract so there is no way I could have continued there. When Detroit came along, knowing what kind of system they have and meeting the coaches, made me really want to try something new."

Schroeder, along with former Rams wide receiver Az-Zahir Hakim, will form a new receiving tandem for the Lions who bid farewell to veterans Herman Moore and Johnnie Morton.

Detroit finished 2-14 last year, but the off-season additions of Schroeder and Hakim, coupled with the drafting of former Oregon quarterback Joey Harrington, have people talking about a Detroit offense that is sure to be improved.

"It's going to be tough going from a small town like Green Bay to a big city like Detroit," Schroeder said, "But that's what life is about, making big changes."

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