Scheider was born in Orange, New Jersey, the son of Anna (née Crosson) and auto mechanic Roy Bernhard Scheider. Scheider's mother was of Irish descent with an Irish Catholic background, while his father was a Protestant German American. As a child, Scheider was an athlete, participating in organized baseball and boxing competitions, for which he was classed as a welterweight, weighing in at 140 lbs. Scheider competed in the Diamond Gloves Boxing Tournament in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He attended Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey, graduating in 1950, and was inducted into the school's hall of fame in 1985. He traded his boxing gloves for the stage, studying drama at both Rutgers University and Franklin and Marshall College, where he was a member of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.
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