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UNF baseball player recovering from shark attack



After nearly eight years of good, uneventful surfing on the Atlantic coast of Florida, 20-year-old UNF baseball pitcher Clayton Schulz said he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time when he was attacked by a shark last July in the waves Jacksonville Beach.


“I don’t have any really distinct memories of it, except that I felt teeth and the next thing I knew I was on the beach and then in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. It all happened so fast, it’s all just kind of a blur,” Schulz said.


Nobody knows exactly what kind of shark or other sharp-toothed creature tore into his left foot, but whatever it was held on and shook for a while before letting go. Fortunately, another surfer helped Schulz to shore and called for help; however, the damage to his foot was extensive, requiring reconstructive surgery and 300 stitches.


Schulz said his first concern once he realized what happened was whether or not he’d be able to continue playing baseball for UNF.  “The reason I applied to UNF was so I could play baseball here, and my main goal after college is to play baseball,” he said. “Hopefully this injury won’t change anything for me.”


Since then, the junior majoring in business management has spent countless hours in rehabilitation and physical therapy as well as training at UNF to regain all function of his foot. “My foot’s been healing well so far,” he said. “It just takes a while to get that strength back; there was a lot of damage done, so it’s going to take time to heal completely.”


Schulz’s coaches are confident the determined athlete will experience a 100-percent recovery. Head Baseball Coach Raymond “Smoke” Laval said Schulz is doing great and will be back on the mound soon. “He’s been getting his arm in shape and will be just fine to throw a couple of innings for us. Everything’s going as planned and I anticipate he’ll be back in the game this season,” Laval said.


“Clayton has battled through a very serious injury and has worked hard enough to be able to practice with the team,” said Assistant Baseball Coach Judd Loveland. “His balance and strength are improving on a daily basis.”


UNF Assistant Athletic Trainer Mark Powers also is optimistic about a complete recovery and said the young athlete continues to improve with each rehabilitative session. “It’s a lengthy process, as we are not only working on strengthening the foot and ankle, but addressing strength, form and balance with the rest of his biomechanical chain as well,” Powers said. “Clayton has progressed to the point where he is taking part in most of the team drills and he has started his throwing program, but it’s too early to give a timetable for his return. His motivation and work ethic, though, are off the charts.”


Will Schulz continue to surf? The answer is yes, but not for a while. “Right now I’m putting all my effort into getting back to baseball, so I don’t have time for surfing. I’ll think about it sometime after baseball season,” he said. “If I were to hurt myself surfing again, it would be pretty stupid — and I’m sure my coaches wouldn’t appreciate that much.”


One thing Schulz does want to make time to do is meet with UNF’s resident shark expert, Dr. Jim Gelsleichter, a Biology professor, to find out everything he can about sharks in the region. “I have lots of questions about what kind of shark it could have been, since I never even got to see what attacked me,” he said. “I may never know what bit me, but I’ll probably always be curious about it. The whole experience has been pretty surreal.”