Schultheis rumbled to Eagle Scoring Trophy in 2013
MIDDLESEX TWP — A 6-foot-1, 230-pound fullback hitting the defense like a wrecking ball ... bodies flailing as opposing players did their best to bring him down, but failing time and time again.
That was a frequent sight a decade ago when Josh Schultheis was the heart of the Mars football team's ground game.
As a junior in 2013, he rushed for 1,645 yards, a 7.7 yards-per-carry-average and 24 touchdowns. He won the Butler Eagle Scoring Trophy with 132 points in the regular season. The campaign included a 219-yard, four-touchdown effort against Derry and 182 yards and three more scores against Hollidaysburg.
"I knew I was having a good season, but I was never big on keeping track of my stats," he said. "I was pretty humble, never showboated. I just wanted to win and enjoyed being on the field with my buddies."
Scott Pfeiffer worked with many great players during his 18 seasons as Mars' running backs coach, but remembers Schultheis as a different breed.
"He was so big, but also had speed and great vision," he said. "His size and physicality was different from anybody else we had up until that point."
Schultheis saw limited action as a freshman, but the Planets unleashed him in earnest in 2012. In the first game of his sophomore season, he gained 164 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns in a victory over Franklin Regional.
"I was never more nervous than I was going into that game," he said. "Knowing I was starting under the Friday Night Lights, it was very nerve-racking. Our offensive line was full of juniors and seniors. They provided me with a lot of support and I looked up to them."
He ended that season with 1,687 yards and 27 touchdowns and after his stellar junior year, was closing in on Mars' all-time rushing record — Billy Bair's 4,702 yards.
The Planets opened the 2014 season at Indiana and the game began like many before had for Schultheis. He gained 78 yards and scored a touchdown as Mars built a 19-0 lead. But he was not able to return to the huddle after his seventh carry. A number of Indiana players had converged low on Schultheis, who suffered a broken bone and torn ligaments in his left ankle on the play.
"It actually wasn't that painful, but I couldn't put my full body weight on it," he said. "There was hope that I may have been able to come back for the playoffs, but as my physical therapy progressed, by Week 5 or 6, I still couldn't run and knew that I was done for the season."
Schultheis finished 1,024 yards shy of the school's career rushing record. Had he remained healthy, he would have broken it well before the season was over.
"It was a shame to see his career end like that," Pfeiffer said. "He was a physical player, but had never been injured before."
The Planet defense also felt the sting of Schultheis' absence. He was a starter at middle linebacker since the start of his junior year.
Schultheis remained involved throughout the season.
"I still went to practices and games, just wanted to be around the team," he said. "It was tough, but that injury wasn't the worst thing. For an 18-year-old, it put a lot of things in perspective for me and I grew as a person."
Prior to the injury, several Division I schools, including Michigan and Michigan State, had expressed interest in Schultheis as a linebacker.
"That faded away after I got hurt," he said. "I still had some Division II programs who contacted me, but I would have had to play a year before I had a chance at a scholarship."
He ended up leaving football behind and enrolled at Slippery Rock University, graduating in 2018 with a degree in safety management. He is currently a project manager for a steel fabrication company.
Schultheis was married last year. His wife, Maura, is a fellow Mars graduate.
Memories of playing football for the Planets run long and deep.
"I liked being part of something bigger than myself," he said. "I had a lot of family members come to the games to support me. Not everybody has that and I'm very grateful for it."