WWW fall 2007 football tree Schmidts

Robbie Schmidt, right, breaks free with the football from Josh Stricklin, second from right, and Derek Stevens as they enjoy the popular fall sport under a bright autumn tree Thursday, Nov. 1, 2007, at Tolono Park in Tolono. The boys, along with Colton Warnes, background left, Robbie's mother, Shelly, background right, and Trey Warnes, not pictured, were at the park with other members of Caring For Children Daycare in Tolono.

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The smell of burning leaves. Since he lives in Champaign, staff writer Paul Wood misses that childhood joy (and potential health threat). Along with sweater weather, color-rich leaf displays are what autumn is all about.

And then there’s football — there’s always a game somewhere, whether you’re in Memorial Stadium or a park in Tolono. Robbie Schmidt was 8 when a News-Gazette Media photographer caught him and his buds in combat, with a red oak in the background. One of the things he’s studying at the University of Illinois now is Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, so he’s pretty sure that’s the tree.

Nov. 1, 2007, was a good day for the running game. Schmidt broke free with the football from Josh Stricklin and Derek Stevens.

“We played so many pick-up games every day over the course of the years. It was just a beautiful moment,” said Schmidt, who played football from fourth grade to freshman year, before wrestling stole his heart.

The friends were on their way to an after-school program that day, and his mom was with them — in fact, Shelly Schmidt was the quarterback.

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WWW fall 2007 football tree Schmidts
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Reporter

Paul Wood is a reporter at The News-Gazette. His email is pwood@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@pvawood).