Medina High graduate Mason Schreck was fairly confident he was going to play in the NFL this season. Whether it would be with the Cincinnati Bengals, with whom he spent his rookie season on injured reserve, was a bit more dicey.
But when Bengals coach Marvin Lewis announced the team’s final cuts, the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Schreck was indeed on the roster as one of four tight ends.
“I laid it all on the line,” Schreck said in a phone interview Monday night. “I worked my tail off every single day. My agent (Joe Linta, who also represents Cloverleaf grad and 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk) and I were talking and he said, ‘Just keep doing your thing every day.’ He told me I was drawing a lot of interest (around the league).
“But I’m so happy it worked out. I wanted to be here (in Cincinnati).”
Schreck, who led the Bengals with nine receptions for 118 yards in the preseason, is one of the backups to 2015 Pro Bowl selection but injury-prone Tyler Eifert. The others are Tyler Kroft and C.J. Uzomaki, as the Bengals released veteran Ryan Hewitt to keep Schreck.
“This is how the numbers played out,” Lewis told reporters after trimming his roster. “As Mason has developed, (there is) a comfort level with how things have been going with him. He just has to hold on to the football.”
Schreck, who fumbled twice in the preseason, is on tap to make $480,000 in the second year of a four-year, $2.46 million contract he signed after being taken in the seventh round of the 2017 NFL Draft out of the University at Buffalo.
Schreck suffered a Grade 2 sprain of his medial collateral ligament in the third preseason game last year, but the Bengals thought enough of him to place him on injured reserve. The good news was that guaranteed he would be paid the entire season. The bad news was, though he was cleared to play in Week 5, he could not be activated.
“It was a blessing I was part of the team,” he said. “At the same time, I didn’t really feel like I was part of it. Every day was a learning experience.
“I knew going into the offseason how they felt about me. They drafted me, so I knew they liked me a lot. I had a pretty good preseason last year, and for them to keep me around, that was a pretty big deal.”
The Bengals opened this preseason with eight tight ends in training camp, so the competition was fierce. Schreck, who will earn $645,000 next year and $735,000 in 2020 if he continues to stick with the team, ended up earning one of the four spots.
Whether he will be on the active roster when the Bengals play at Indianapolis on Sunday won’t be determined until later this week, but Schreck has cleared his first big hurdle.
“They put me on the 53-man roster,” he said. “They’re not doing that to sit me, hopefully. They’re doing that to have you contribute.
“(Running on the field) will be a dream that I’ve dreamt so many times. It will be like déjà vu. I’ve already seen it, but there’s no way to prepare for that feeling.”
Schreck, who will marry former Medina standout volleyball player Ally Peters on April 11 at the Blue Heron Brewery and Event Center, plays on all the Bengals’ special teams, which means his value extends beyond offense.
“I’ve never told this to anyone before, but as a kid I knew I wanted to be a professional athlete,” he said. “I grew up wanting to be a professional athlete, but I didn’t know if it was going to be football, basketball or golf. At Buffalo, that was the goal.
“The next goal is to get on the field and stay healthy and help my team get a championship.”