Boys Volleyball: Payton’s Earl Schultz model of success5/27/11 Chicago,IL Payton's Earl Schultz (14) spikes the ball against Oak Park-River Forest at St. Ignatius in Chicago on May 27, 2011. | Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 16, 2012 10:37PM
Payton’s Earl Schultz is a modern renaissance man. He’s a three-sport varsity athlete. He’s an outstanding student. Someday, he may grace the cover of GQ magazine. And he’s only a sophomore in high school.
At 6-3 and 185 pounds, Schultz is an outside hitter for the defending Public League boys volleyball champions. As a freshman, he was named the city’s most outstanding player after compiling more than 350 kills.
Schultz is on a pace to equal that mark this season, but he has something more on his mind than smashing records and winning the city title. He wants to lead his team where his sister helped take her Payton volleyball teams in 2008 and 2010 — the state tournament.
“Winning the city title is a big thing for us,” Schultz said. “But our eyes are set on state. We’re really determined to push for that.”
Schultz’s older sister, Michelle, a senior at Payton, was a freshman outside hitter in 2008 when Payton became the first team from the city to reach the state semifinals. Michelle’s athletic and academic careers have had a huge impact on her younger brother.
“She has been my biggest influence,” Schultz said. “I would go watch her play volleyball when I was in third grade and she was in fifth grade. I loved watching her play. She inspired me. I really admire her as an athlete and as a student.”
But volleyball wasn’t the only sport that caught Schultz’s attention as a youngster.
“I’ve been playing basketball a little longer,” he said. “I’ve been playing volleyball four years, but I’ve been playing basketball five, six, seven years. The coaching staff at my grade school [Hawthorne Scholastic Academy] always encouraged me to chase my dreams.”
However, unlike success on the volleyball court, success on the basketball floor has eluded Schultz at Payton. He was a member of Grizzlies’ varsity basketball team that went 5-17 during the 2011-2012 season.
“It was a struggle,” he said. “We lost a lot of seniors when I came in as a freshman and we had quite a few guys quit this year. But that’s part of character-building. You have to push through the tough times. The people who push through those hard times show real character development.”
Schultz also plays 16-inch softball at Payton, and it was while playing first base one day that he began his most recent pursuit — modeling.
“At practice, a guy just pulled my coach aside and asked if he could talk to the first baseman,” Schultz said. “He gave me a card and asked me if I had ever considered modeling. He was with the Ford Modeling Agency.”
Schultz has done three test shoots and appeared in a corporate report for North America’s leader in producing specialty coffees and coffeemakers.
“It’s a good opportunity and a good way to make money for my future,” Schultz said. “It will definitely help out for college. And I love meeting new people. So far, I have met a lot of interesting people through that.”
Schultz’s athletic upside is immeasurable. His volleyball coach, Casey Freeman, believes Schultz could be equally successful in basketball if he were so inclined. However, volleyball appears to be Schultz’s calling, and a career on the beach tour might not be out of the question.
But no matter which direction Schultz goes, Freeman does not expect success to spoil his young superstar.
“He really is a coach’s dream,” Freeman said. “He’s physically gifted and is really dedicated to his athletic talent, but he never lets his ego get the best of him. He knows he is talented, but he doesn’t have the attitude some people have because of their ability and talent level.”