Eric Schultz’s work ethic is well-known.
Connell High football coach Wayne Riner brings it up any time one of his students tries to get out of offseason workouts.
The Utah State University junior was well-known for lifting weights, and then playing in basketball games.
All that hard work is paying off for Schultz.
Schultz will cap a remarkable season at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against Toledo in Boise.
“I think it is just hard work and dedication,” Schultz said of his success. “A big thing this year was to seize opportunity, that was our motto. When we have an opportunity to win, we have taken advantage of that.”
The right tackle, who graduated from Connell in 2006, was named to the all-Western Athletic Conference first team recently, starting all 12 games this season.
“I think I’ve known what he can do his whole career,” said Utah State offensive line coach T.J. Woods, “it was just a matter of him putting it on the field and he has done that this year.
“I think his work ethic, his mental prep, his versatility (all make him great). The No. 1 thing I can say about him is he loves football. He loves coming to work every day, and attempting to outwork his opponent.”
And Woods thinks Schultz, 6-foot-4, 303 pounds, can possibly take that skill to the next level, and he should know, having coached two NFL offensive linemen earlier in his coaching career.
“Absolutely, without question,” Woods said of Schultz’s pro possibilities. “I think he is very gifted athletically and mentally. He has the potential to definitely play at the next level. He has some work to do in that area, but he is well on his way.”
Schultz’s individual success has helped lead Utah State to new heights as a program as well.
The Aggies are in the midst of the best seasons in program history.
Their 10 wins are the most in one season, their outright WAC title is the first since 1936 and they have won six consecutive games.
“We knew we had a good group,” Schultz said. “Of course you never know before a season, but we expect greatness out of ourselves every week.
“It’s really not a surprise to us, but maybe to other people. We did what we wanted to do this year, we reached our goal.”
The Aggies are playing in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl for a second consecutive season, suffering a 24-23 loss to Ohio University last season. Utah State finished 7-6 in 2011-12, which helped spawn this year’s dominant team.
The only losses the Aggies have had were to Wisconsin (16-14) and BYU (6-3). The BYU game was even more special for Schultz because he got to face off with two fellow Connell graduates — Spencer and Matt Hadley.
“It’s not something you see every day from one of the small communities,” Schultz said. “It is nice.”
Not as nice as completing his dream junior season with a bowl victory.
“I haven’t seen this much excitement from the program or the community in the four years I’ve been here,” he said. “Our fans are the greatest in college football and it has been really exciting.
“It’s always exciting to go to a bowl game. I’m grateful for the opportunity and now we just need to go win the game.”