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Published: Wednesday, 9/9/2009

Ex-Rocket was in UT, Archbold hall of fame

ARCHBOLD, Ohio - Steven Schnitkey, 59, of Archbold, seventh leading tackler in University of Toledo football history with 412 career tackles, died of cancer Saturday at his home.

A 1968 Archbold High School graduate, Mr. Schnitkey was inducted into the Archbold Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006 and the UT Football Hall of Fame in 2008. The latter is known as the UT Varsity "T" Hall of Fame.

He was a member of the Rocket football teams that won 35 consecutive games between the 1969-71 seasons. A tough nose guard who often squared off against linemen larger than himself, Mr. Schnitkey was named NCAA Lineman of the Week during the middle of that streak on Oct. 24, 1970.

"He was the heart and soul of the team," according to a cousin and former roommate, Bob Rose, who grew up with him in Archbold, played football with him at UT, and preceded him as an inductee to the UT Football Hall of Fame.

"He was an extremely dedicated person to whatever he did," Mr. Rose said. "The guy was just incredible."

In addition to being an outstanding athlete, Mr. Schnitkey was an avid fisherman, hunter, and artist.

He carved wooden ducks and was a dedicated supporter of the conservation group Pheasants Forever, for which he donated knives that he had made.

"He never expected anything in return," Mr. Rose said.

A son-in-law, Kyle Brodbeck, said Mr. Schnitkey was a "very honorable, very admirable man."

"He really loved his family. He definitely was a family man," Mr. Brodbeck said. "He just had a big heart. He'd do anything for anybody."

Those words were echoed by Pastor Erich Christman of St. John's Christian Church in Archbold, where Mr. Schnitkey was a member. "Family came first," Pastor Christman said.

He said he was impressed by the empathy Mr. Schnitkey showed for others in need of spiritual guidance as recently as two weeks ago after getting bad news about his own prognosis.

"He wasn't just thinking about himself," Pastor Christman said.

About 1,000 people paid their respects to Mr. Schnitkey last night during a four-hour visitation with family members. Several were his former UT teammates, Mr. Rose said.

Mr. Schnitkey was part of three Mid-American Conference championship teams and three Tangerine Bowl titles. He received All-MAC honors in 1970 and second-team All-MAC accolades in 1971.

His athletic skill was not limited to football. In 1968, while at Archbold High, Mr. Schnitkey was a state high jump champion in track and field.

Born May 22, 1950, in Wauseon, Mr. Schnitkey was a lifelong resident of the Archbold area and worked at Sauder Woodworking Co. He was so proud of Archbold that he usually opted to give tours around his community instead of talk about his cancer when old friends came by in recent weeks, Mr. Rose said.

Mr. Schnitkey and his wife, Karen, were married in 1973.

He was a member of the Defiance Pigeon Club, a group that trains pigeons to race competitively. He continued to drive 50 or more miles at a time to train the birds up until recently.

Survivors include his wife, Karen; daughter, Tara Brodbeck, and son, Blake Schnitkey; grandchildren, Keaton and Chaney Brodbeck; his mother, Melba Schnitkey, and brothers, Scott, Stuart, and Sid Schnitkey.

Services will be at 6 p.m. today at St. John's Christian Church in Archbold. Short Funeral Home in Archbold is handling arrangements.

The family requests that any memorials be made to St. John's Christian Church.


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