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Wyckoff, NJ 14-year old, Peter Schuh, defies odds on and off playing field

Peter Schuh from Wyckoff, New Jersey is no average 14 year-old, excelling at Eisenhower Middle School with a perfect 4.0 grade point average while playing football, lacrosse and basketball. Off the field, Schuh volunteers his time as an assistant coach with Wyckoff Pee Wee Recreation. Training at the Parisi Speed School in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, Schuh was named Champion of the Month. Schuh received an MVP award at a football camp at Kean University along with an invitation to play in the All-American Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida.

A couple of weeks ago, Schuh announced he was going to attend Saint Joseph’s High School in Montvale, New Jersey.

Despite all those accomplishments, Schuh has been very sick since kindergarten. During a surgical procedure, Schuh went into cardiac and pulmonary procedure and was admitted into the pediatric intensive care unit at Hackensack Hospital. Shortly thereafter, Schuh and his family received a life-changing diagnosis of Asthma, Celiac Disease and a heart defect. At one point, Peter lost 20 pounds, losing a pound a day, choking on food and drooling.

Peter had been diagnosed with EE (Eosinophilia Esophagitis) in 4th grade which led to him losing so much weight and being unable to swallow food.

In his story “My New Normal” Schuh describes feeling alone and  wondering if he would die or have a feeding tube. He said moments like this may seem unfair but helps you become a stronger person. His determination and perseverance is what carries him to get his life back on track.

Recently I interviewed Peter Schuh, his mother Colleen and Saint Joseph Head Football Coach Auguie Hoffmann at Saint Joseph’s High School.

Double G Sports: How are you feeling Peter and what led to your decision in attending Saint Joseph High School?

Peter Schuh: I feel extremely healthy and my body is doing good. The reason I chose Saint Joe’s is the relationship I had with Coach Hoffmann because we relate to each other and relationship that we share the same disease and because they have a good football team and great academics. This is the best fit for me and is where I want to grow and become a better person for the next four years of my life.

Hoffmann talked about his relationship with Peter and attending Saint Joe’s.

Augie Hoffmann: When Pete and I talked to me about his allergies, I told him I have celiac and really don’t pay attention to it, doesn’t bother me and exist. Colleen told me you don’t realize how bad this is and Peter said to me coach you have to get this under control. He is a great role model for me to get things going and realize how bad it get and affect you down the road.

The thing that makes Peter special is I don’t see too many 14 year-olds have a lifetime worth of struggles and listening to his story opened up my eyes at how many lives he has touched. His application process was the best we have seen. Not too many 14 year-olds come prepared for an interview with notes and I was shocked by that.

I said to him if you don’t play a down of football, this place would be better off in four years since you have been here, which raises the level of kids being here. He is stepping outside of his comfort zone, not a lot kids from Wyckoff that are here at Saint Joe’s and whole legion of people supporting him.

Tons of people were re-tweeting this news and reaching out to him. We had colleges coming in during the open period of recruiting and schools were asking who is this kid. We’re fighting for the same kids and most sought out kid in the area for obvious reasons, a straight-A student, honor roll and tremendous athlete and above all a tremendous human being. We just got better in many ways by having him be a part of our family.

Double G Sports: Peter, you have been playing football since you were in third grade, can you talk about your experiences on the field and with Pee-Wee Head Coach Eric Knight?

Peter Schuh: Eric Knight was one of the first coaches I had and from the first practice we connected and had a bond. During the Super Bowl in 4th grade I got really sick but knew the team needed me. Right after the game I went to the hospital. Coach Knight visited me in the hospital when I felt lonely and supported me.

Eric Knight on Peter Schuh: “Even when he was younger he had a drive and whatever he was going all in, 100% committed and focused on whatever that goal is and obtaining that goal. He battled back from an illness and saw same type of desire to set goals and achieve them. He has come back and given to the program by working with younger kids and a role model.

Double G Sports: Peter, you have special friendship with a local girl, Payton Sargenti and helped raise money in her battle against cancer and started Payton Strong.

Peter Schuh: There was a connection between us and when she got the cancer and knew her condition was more severe than what I have I could relate because you feel isolated. I felt compelled to do something for her because I had an opportunity to help her achieve her things she didn’t have. A great girl that always has a smile on her face and person to be around.

Cory Cannici (Parisi Speed School of Franklin Lakes) bought the headbands so I could have all the profit from the merchandise. Roger Schnorrbusch (Park Wood Deli and head of Wyckoff boosters) got in touch with someone to design the headbands and my mom helped me out with the combination of colors would be best and good to wear in sports. Coach Hoffmann supported me and bought headbands for the team to wear against Bergen Catholic and it meant a lot to me. Drew Gibbs (Ramapo) bought helmet decals and Andy Wingfield (Wyckoff Recreation) lent one of the Wyckoff Raiders helmets and got all the coaches and players signatures so she (Payton Strong) could remember everyone.

Cory Cannici on Peter Schuh: “Pete is one of the hardest working athletes we have ever had and I have been a trainer for seven years. He has the best work ethic I have ever seen and completely obsessed with putting in his time and bettering himself. He is singularly focused and hard working and helps kids here at Parisi and when he is class will jump into another one no matter the age or ability and help out like a second coach. Amazing to see the maturity level in an 8th grader. Extremely humble and respectful”

Double G Sports: Pete, can you talk about the support you have received from the town of Wyckoff?

Peter Schuh: Everyone was looking out for me when I was sick. Friends would come over when I was down and play video games with me for 30 minutes and make me happy. Pizzeria Mandara made a special pizza called “Peter Pie” for me that didn’t have potato and was rice based.

Mena from Pizzeria Mandara on Peter Schuh: A nice young boy and a very nice family. I met them a couple of years ago when they came into the restaurant. I had a granddaughter that had food allergies. There is an Italian chef that has a great company and niece that had celiac. I gave him the details and he came up with a pizza crust for him(Peter Schuh). He is comfortable coming in here and very grateful and humble. We actually put it on the menu and called it “Peter Pie”

Double G Sports: Pete, what is your message to younger kids?

Peter Schuh: My message to them is never stopping and other opportunities will present themselves to you. I would push them to play sports because that is where you build relationships that you have for life. I say a disease is a blessing because I do believe my work ethic, hard work, focus and discipline comes from the diseases. Go aim higher and work harder until you can’t breathe any more.

Colleen Schuh: Don’t let these diseases define you and our whole goal was this is part of Pete and we all have a cross to bear. We said this sucks, it could be a lot worse but you’re going to school. You don’t know how long you have on this earth and give it your all because tomorrow may never come.

The Schuh family has teamed up with the Ramapo College women’s softball team in the spring to spread awareness of EE.

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Sunil Sunder Raj

Since July of 2014 Sunil Sunder Raj has been with In The Zone. Sunil has experience covering minor league baseball, high school and college sports. A beat writer for the Rockland Boulders for six years, Ramapo College men’s basketball for four years, NJIT men’s basketball and Seton Hall women’s basketball. Now focusing on feature articles about athletes, coaches and sports media professionals. A graduate of Ramapo College of New Jersey with a bachelor of arts degree in journalism.
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