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Bill Schroeder Now Target of Praise

December 3, 1998

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) _ A year ago this week, Bill Schroeder’s career was crashing.

His coach was grabbing and shoving him on national TV following a foolish penalty at Minnesota, and his teammates weren’t rushing to back up their cocky wide receiver who had already fumbled away his job as kick returner.

``Nothing against Bill,″ quarterback Brett Favre said at the time, ``but you can’t make stupid mistakes.″

Now, the Packers’ talented fourth-year pro is no longer the target of Mike Holmgren’s rage but of his praise, and he’s one of Favre’s favorite targets, too.

In his first NFL start last week, Schroeder, a gifted track athlete who played just one year of football at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, caught five passes for a career-high 128 yards against Philadelphia.

Favre went so far as to describe Schroeder as a ``go-to″ receiver after Antonio Freeman sat out the fourth quarter with a broken jaw.

The Packers’ patience in Schroeder has paid off. He’s gone from a hindrance to a help. Maligned to matured. Brash to businesslike. Project to prospect. Bad to good. You name it.

``I am as proud of how he’s handled this season as any player on our team,″ Holmgren said. ``I think he has matured and grown up a lot, which was necessary. I think it was necessary for him to continue in his career in this league.

``He’s much more coachable now. I mean, he listens instead of fighting you on things.″

It all started with a little chat in the offseason.

First came the apologies, then the advice.

``We met in the spring and we wiped the slate clean from the incident last year,″ Holmgren said.

Then, Schroeder asked Holmgren what he had to do materially and mentally.

``I needed to know what I needed to do to become a better player,″ Schroeder said. ``And they told me some of the things that it takes to be in the pros instead of just being a Division III athlete. And I’ve taken a step up.″

With his attitude adjusted, Schroeder went about making the switch.

``The approach to track is a little different than the approach to football,″ Holmgren said. ``The thought process is a little different and a transition has to be made. And he has done that this season.″

``I think it’s the hardest adjustment I’ve made in my life,″ Schroeder said. ``Because track is just running and jumping and football’s everything else. I guess I had to learn on the run. Whereas most guys get four years of college football, I only gone one.″

Schroeder’s development came at the highest level. So, it’s not a surprise there were glitches along the way.

``He played only his senior year in college and went straight to the pros, and that’s such a blessing in itself,″ receiver Derrick Mayes said. ``But the downside of it is just not knowing how to play the game. Hell, Billy’s got the physical attributes of any receiver around, probably more. But all that won’t get you anywhere if you don’t know how to play the game.″

The transformation wasn’t merely mental.

``That’s one thing,″ Holmgren said. ``The second thing is the physical nature of the game. You don’t finish a 100-yard dash, or a 100-meter dash and raise your arms have a guy come out of the stands and hit you. But Billy has made that transition and he’s shown toughness. He’s matured and I’m really proud of the job he’s done.″

Still, Schroeder’s job is far from done.

``Will he continue to improve? Yes,″ Holmgren said emphatically. ``He’s still a pup when it comes to playing football. And he’s got great speed but he runs a little high. But there are track athletes who have played football who run a certain way. And he will learn some of these things as he continues to play.

``So, I think yeah, he will get better. And he’s proven that he can play in this league.″

And be a target for praise and passes instead of rage.

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