ALLEN PARK, Mich. — It was 22 years ago, at the 1995 Orange Bowl in Miami.
The top-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers were looking to claim their third national championship in school history against the No. 3 Miami Hurricanes and the game was tied at 17-all with 2:51 left.
The teams exchanged blows throughout the game, and the Huskers found themselves with a chance to win after Tommie Frazier led a drive that got them to the 15-yard line.
Frazier took the snap under center in I-formation, then handed the ball to Cory Schlesinger, who stormed to the end zone on a fullback dive with only one Hurricane touching the former Columbus High standout in the process.
The touchdown secured the 24-17 win over the Warren Sapp-led Hurricanes while capping a tremendous Husker career for Schlesinger, who finished the game with six carries for 48 yards and two scores.
Schlesinger was selected in the sixth round of the 1995 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. The Duncan native went on to play 181 games over 12 seasons with the Lions before finishing his career with the Dolphins in 2007.
His best season came in 2001, when Schlesinger had 60 receptions for 466 yards and a career-best 154 yards on the ground.
Since his retirement in 2007, Schlesinger has made a seamless transition from the football field to the classroom as an industrial arts teacher at Allen Park High School, located about 15 minutes outside Detroit.
“The transition was pretty good. I think I prepared myself for it, life after football, because when I was playing they were always talking to us about life after football because one hit and this will be your last game ever, the last time you ever play in the NFL,” Schlesinger said. “You always got to make sure you have something to fall back on. Some guys think they can live off their money, they get bored and they want to do something, so the money goes pretty fast if you don’t do anything about it.”
But that doesn’t mean the 12-year NFL veteran don’t miss the gridiron. Schlesinger said the NFL locker room is an experience you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.
“It’s kind of interesting, I talk to a lot of former players, some of my former teammates, stuff like that. We always talk about what we miss about it and I think what you miss the most about it is the locker room. Because you are with a bunch of guys. There are only a few people in the country that actually can do this, and they’re from all over different parts of the country,” Schlesinger said. “The stories they have, the characters these guys are, they're just hilarious guys. You really form some tight bonds with your teammates.”
While attending school at Nebraska, Schlesinger started his preparation for life after football by getting his degree in industrial technology with a goal of eventually becoming a teacher.
“In the offseason I would actually substitute teach at Lincoln Public Schools. I would take class and make sure my teaching certificate was up-to-date because I knew eventually football would come to an end and I would need to do something else," he said. “I always wanted to finish my degree and I never thought I would say that in high school, so it’s something when I graduated I said, 'This is what I wanted to do.' I like working with the kids, so to me it was not too difficult of a decision to do. It just depended on where I was going to do this at."
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Schlesinger also does charity work with former and current Detroit Lions players to raise money for police and fire departments and schools throughout Michigan.
The group, led by former Lions tight end Rob Rubick, plays charity basketball games, signs autographs and interacts with fans across the state.
“We go to these little small towns, play basketball, and we can completely sell out the gym. We can do it the next year, it’ll be all new people that you didn’t see before. So we get out there and really say thanks for being Lions fans, because without them we wouldn't have a job,” Schlesinger said.
Initially, when asked by Rubick to join the group, the two-time state champion wrestler for the Discoverers politely declined, saying he didn’t play basketball. But Schlesinger eventually gave in.
“I was like, 'Oh my goodness, sorry I didn’t do this before with you guys because it is a lot of fun,'" Schlesinger said. "Like I said, we’re here to meet the fans that support us, because I tell you what, for the Lions never winning the Super Bowl we have a huge fan base here.”
Outside of teaching and charity work, Schlesinger takes on responsibilities as a father of two daughters, Natalie and Leah.
“My daughters went to the same school that I teach at. That was really nice that I had an opportunity to see them in all their sports and school activities. Just life at school every day was great. One is in college now and the other is a junior in high school,” Schlesinger said.
The CHS graduate and his family make it to his parents' Duncan home at least once a year to see other family members who still live in Nebraska.
“Every summer we get back and get a chance to visit with them for an extended amount of time. It’s always fun, going to Nebraska is still always high on our list because it’s Nebraska. If you didn’t grow up there you wouldn’t know why people want to go back there, but it’s still always going to be home no matter what,” Schlesinger said.
He has only been able to attend one Husker football game since retiring from the Lions, largely because of scheduling conflicts, but said that doesn’t reflect what the program did for him.
“Coach (Tom) Osborne and the staff really brought me not only to the Lions and Michigan, but they helped me sustain a 12-year NFL career. I can’t thank that organization enough,” Schlesinger said.
If Nebraska plays in the state of Michigan against the Wolverines or Spartans, you can count on him being there to cheer on his alma mater.