Even though you probably don’t know his name, you probably know Vern Schultz.If you go to Portland State basketball games, you would recognize him in a second as the guy who attempts to make life miserable for opposing free-throw shooters.
Portland State softball coach Teri Mariani described his participation, “He sits in the stands, and he’s got his pom-poms. When the other team shoots free-throws, he yells ‘aiiirbaaall.’ He’s probably the loudest person there. He goes down and dances with the cheerleaders. He absolutely loves it. Athletic events are his life,” Mariani said.
Schultz attends games in several sports. If you go to PSU football games, you see him on the sidelines cheering as loud as he can. He watches the wrestling squad, the softball and volleyball teams.
Schultz also assists Mariani in handling her team’s equipment.
“He’s just the most dependable worker. He never misses a day. I get here at 5:30 sometimes and he does a morning workout and then he stays and helps the softball players with their workouts and helps with the equipment. I tell my players if they worked half as hard as he does, they would be just so much more successful,” Mariani said.
Schultz began his experience with the Vikings through a program in which Portland State teaches job skills to disabled or rehabilitating persons.
“He was working down in what we call ‘the cage,’ or the men’s locker room, folding towels. The current wrestling coach, Marlin Grahn was running the locker room. Schultz sort of adopted all of us. He lived around the block from me and I would take him to school, and he just started helping out. He’s been around now for about 18 years,” Mariani said.
Now 38, Schultz is more of a mainstay to Portland State athletics than many of the Portland State teams that come and go as the budget dictates. His disability is a result of an accident in his early childhood that was supposed to have left him much more than “disabled.”
“When he was five or six, he was hit by a car. He was in a coma, with massive head injuries. They were going to take him off life support, because even if he didn’t die from a brain infection, he was not going to be able to walk or speak. He’s overcome all of that. It’s really a motivating story. Nothing stops him,” Mariani said.
“He’s got a great sense of humor, and he’s a lot smarter than people give him credit for. He’s got an unbelievable memory. He’ll tell you a score from two months ago. And he loves pulling pranks on people. He used to exercise on a big tricycle and he would ride by my house and sing to me. He just loves having fun, and it’s contagious. It makes him fun to be around,” Mariani said.
It seems fitting, then, that Schultz acts as a motivator at Portland State athletic events. From looking at the ordeals he has overcome, he has enough motivation for everyone.