There has been a lot of change on the sidelines at Derby High School in the last 45 years. Yet, Rex Schott has remained the key piece of the Derby athletic program. Schott has seen it all since joining DHS as a part-time athletic trainer in 1976.
From one of the more exhilarating moments – like performing CPR to save a Derby fan’s life – to the more routine tasks like taping ankles, there isn’t much that surprises Schott.
Schott will be a part of the 2021 Derby Hall of Fame Class which will be celebrated on Oct. 15.
It all started in 1965 when Schott suffered an injury, but it turned out to be the beginning of a new passion.
As an underclassman, Schott participated in football, but an injury forced him onto the sideline, where he has been ever since. Fortunately, coach Jack Hays suggested that he stay with the team as a trainer, which pointed him to a career in athletic training.
“Hays said that since I liked being around it, and he thought that I would be good at it, so that is what got me started,” Schott said.
Hays helped Schott meet Wichita State University athletic trainer Tom Reeves who helped Schott get involved at WSU until Reeves was killed in the Wichita State football plane crash in 1970 while Schott was on active duty.
According to Schott, helping as an athletic trainer in high school gave him some added experience before going to college.
Athletic training was his passion. He was able to work as an athletic trainer at Wichita State and, in 1970, became the youngest director of athletic training at a division one program at the age of 22.
He was hired shortly after the Wichita State football plane crash in 1970, but he was forced to grow up quickly because he had to treat survivors of the horrific crash.
“I was like the same age as some of the kids that were killed,” Schott said. “I had to care for people that were my same age, and it was challenging. I grew up really fast because I had to take care of all of those kids that survived as well as helping the other sports.”
After working at Wichita State as an athletic trainer for six years, Schott chose to move back to Derby to work with his alma mater, where he has been ever since.
“I started working with Derby because they needed some help,” Schott said. “So I would come down for ballgames and come look at kids a couple of times a week.”
As medical research and technology have developed, so has the care of athletes. Not all protocols are easy to follow, and Schott has had tough conversations with parents and athletes. Regardless of the protocols, Schott has stood firm with players and parents to care for the Derby athletes.
“It is hard, even back before we had protocols,” Schott said. “... There have been times where I have had serious discussions with parents and athletes as to why I think they shouldn’t be playing. Sometimes it is challenging.”
Schott wasn’t always on the sideline. In his senior year, he found that track and field was a sport he could succeed at. Unfortunately, the potential wasn’t realized until his last year at Derby.
“My senior year, I decided to go out for track, and I guess I was pretty good at it,” Schott said. “I qualified for state … I think I placed fourth in the long jump. Not bad for someone who hadn’t done track until his senior year.”
Schott excelled in the long jump and 100-yard run and held the school record for the long jump.
As the track team captain, he was the lone athlete to go to the state championship meet and was selected as the Derby Athlete of the Year.
After graduating high school, Schott decided to go to Wichita State University to participate in track and field.
Home had always been important to Schott, and there aren’t many places he would like to be other than right in Derby, Kansas.
“Derby is a great place to be,” Schott said. “I was offered work with the St. Louis Cardinals organization and a job at the University of Illinois. But home is important, and money doesn’t have to be the driving force.”
Schott will be honored with Brady Ayer and Lisa (Lunkenheimer) Smiley as the Derby Hall of Fame Class of 2021. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.