Another concussion might have prevented the Chelsea High School grad from having a choice.
After three concussions over the last four years with the Detroit Lions, the 31 year old is returning to Chelsea to help the school’s football program and pursue a local business venture.
The Lions released Scheffler after he suffered the third concussion in a 22-9 loss to Green Bay last year.
“I was sitting on my couch watching all the guys that I had spent months training and playing with,” Scheffler said. “It was strange, and I was still feeling the effects of the hit.”
The time away from football during the season helped him see the game with a slightly different perspective.
“It was an eye-opener,” Scheffler said. “I think when you are playing the game you don’t realize how physical the game can be, how hard some of the hits can be.”
The tight end was drafted out of Western Michigan by the Denver Broncos in the second round of the 2006 draft. He was traded to his hometown Detroit Lions in 2010.
In eight seasons, he had 258 career receptions with 3,207 yards with 22 touchdowns.
During the off-season, he spent months weighing his future. He had workouts with Chicago and Kansas City, but also started to pursue options outside of football.
His young family, including wife Richelle and three children under the age of eight, was also an important factor.
“She (Richelle) was ready for me to be done, and I don’t blame her,” Scheffler said with a chuckle.
With the concussions behind him, Scheffler decided the bright future he had outside of playing wasn’t worth risking.
“I’m young, 31 years old is young, so there was concern (of long term risk of a fourth concussion), but it was still tough,” Scheffler said. “I had some opportunities, but I decided it was time.”
Despite getting knocked out of what turned out to be his last game, Scheffler said he has fond memories of the afternoon.
“My whole family was at that game,” Scheffler said. “I’m not sure why, but we took a lot of pictures that day, so it was weird. It was almost like it was meant to be. The game was at Lambeau, and we just have all these great pictures. I’m OK with how it all turned out.”
They all know about his eight years of NFL experience, and that gives him instant credibility as a new assistant coach for the Bulldogs football team.
“All the kids watch what he does, and listen to everything he says,” longtime Chelsea coach Brad Bush said.
Scheffler came in as a freshman at Chelsea High School the fall of Bush’s first year as coach.
As a senior wide receiver, Scheffler set school records for receiving yards in a season as he helped the Bulldogs go 11-1, and reach regionals in Division 3 where it lost to the eventual state champion Farmington Hills Harrison.
“Tony was a huge part of the early success we had when I came into the program,” Bush said. “What makes Tony coming back so great, is that Chelsea means so much to him.”
When Scheffler asked his former coach for the team’s playbook to prepare for the team minicamp this summer, Bush said it should be pretty familiar.
“I expected him to just give me the playbook, but he just said I should remember most of it,” Scheffler said, laughing. “I had to tell him I’ve had to learn like 30 offenses since high school. After a couple days of camp though, things started to come back a little.”
Scheffler, who has donated money to the athletics program in the past, is coaching strictly on a volunteer basis.
“I was smart with my money, so I don’t need to ask for anything,” Scheffler said. “The sports programs are so important to this community that it’s just a privilege to be able to help out.”
Scheffler knows Chelsea fans want their team to bounce back after missing the playoffs last year for the first time since 1998.
“I think I can bring something to the table,” Scheffler said. “You don’t realize how much you know about the game after playing it until you get in there and start helping out. It’s been fun working with the tight ends, and to work with Brad is the cherry on top. It’s something we have talked about for a while, it was a no-brainer for me.”