The diamond-studded ring on his hand serves as a reminder of how far Schneider's traveled.
DE PERE – Before the Super Bowl ring, the infamous championship belt tweet or even the charitable foundation in his eldest son's name, John Schneider was just a history major looking for an inroad to his dream job.
There were no sports management courses in the late '80s and early '90s. Schneider laughs when admitting his first taste of scouting came at the University of St. Thomas (Minn.) while trying to figure out why others were leap-frogging him on the Tommies' depth chart.
However, Schneider quickly learned his future was on the sidelines rather than in the trenches. He fired off a letter to then-Green Bay Packers general manager Ron Wolf, which led to a internship and gateway to a completely different world of football.
More than 20 years after dropping everything and breaking into the NFL as a scout with his hometown team, the De Pere native and Abbot Pennings High School graduate is the general manager of the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, accomplished under the blueprint he helped design.
Schneider, 42, was back in the area Wednesday to accept the distinguished service award at the 18th annual Lee Remmel Sports Award Banquet, an event named for the former Press-Gazette reporter and Packers public relations director that Schneider grew to admire during his time in Green Bay.
Still, none of it seems real. The diamond-studded ring on his hand serves as a reminder of how far Schneider's traveled.
"It's very surreal," Schneider said. "I felt like I was blessed enough to get my own opportunity to do it the way I wanted to do it for a guy like (Seahawks owner) Paul Allen is pretty neat. To go ahead and hook up with (Seattle) coach Pete (Carroll) and put our philosophy in place, put our heads down and just grind through it and see it come fruition is very special."
Schneider didn't envision player personnel being his life's work. He figured he'd become a teacher and football coach, but his childhood passion for football cards and statistics never left him. Still hasn't.
Once his playing career ended, Schneider knew he wanted more. He climbed the ladder in the Packers' front office for four years before Wolf suggested he explore a director of pro personnel position with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1997.
Schneider was only 25 at the time, but it taught him the most important lesson he's learned in the NFL: to do your own thing and step out of your comfort zone when opportunity presents itself.
He spent three years with the Chiefs and one season with both Seattle and Washington before returning to the Packers in 2002 following Wolf's retirement. Once his close friend, Ted Thompson, took charge three years later, he figured he'd never leave.
That was until the Seahawks came calling.
"I thought that maybe I'd be able to kind of hunker down here and get in line, if you will," Schneider said. "I worked in Seattle before and I knew what kind of owner Paul Allen was. Being as good of friends as I am with Russ (Ball), Mike McCarthy, Ted, and (John) Dorsey and Reggie McKenzie — as hard as it was to leave, it was too great of an opportunity."
Schneider and Carroll both have a say in personnel decisions and so far it's led to a 38-26 record, three playoff appearances and the only Super Bowl title in the organization's 38-year history. The Seahawks' dominating 43-8 win over Denver in February was the largest margin of victory in a Super Bowl in two decades.
One of the other reasons Schneider was honored Wednesday was for the progress he and his wife have made with their foundation, Ben's Fund, which raises awareness and money to help families with children on the autism spectrum. It's named after their own 12-year-old son who has autism.
Schneider still misses Green Bay. His parents and two sisters still live in the area, and his connections still run deep in the Packers' organization. He's the proud godfather of one of McCarthy's daughters, and idolizes Thompson as a general manager and human being.
"There's times I get choked up just thinking about him because he's just such a good person," Schneider said. "He's one of the coolest, most even-keeled people you're ever going to meet. He has such strong principles and beliefs. He's a strong Christian. ... We talk to a lot of people around the league, but obviously these guys are special to me."
Schneider and his family plan to spend a few days in the area before returning to Seattle and getting back to work. The Seahawks' task? Trying to become the first team since the 2004 and 2005 New England Patriots to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
The last eight champions, including the Packers, have come up short, but Schneider welcomes the challenge. If he's learned anything over the past 20 years, it's that you have to move forward.
"It's big. It's real, but we always talk about what's next and we try not to look back at yesterday," said Schneider, whose team opens against the Packers on Sept. 4.
"We're very proud of what we accomplished bringing the first Super Bowl championship to the city of Seattle, but we don't really rest on our laurels. We're true to our philosophy, we're going to turn the page and keep trying to do it better next year."
— whodkiew@pressgazette media.com and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.