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October 13, 1989 - Image 50

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-10-13

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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MSU Long-Snapper Shapiro
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50

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 13, 1959

THE JEWISH NEWS

newspaper ad for a long-ball
snapper. Knowing his size
(180 pounds) and his father
were against him, Shapiro
waited until two days later,
when he read a story saying
the position was still open.
Thinking, "If this isn't
divine intervention, I don't
know what is," he dashed to
the MSU football office. He
impressed Larry Bielat,
punter and placekicker
coach, and within two weeks
Shapiro went from No. 7 on
the MSU list to second team,
seeing action in four games
as the Spartans took second
place in the Big Ten behind
Michigan.
By taking the minimum
amount of credits necessary
to stay eligible, Shapiro is
now a fifth-year senior and
first-string long-snapper for
the Spartans. • Since 1988,
he's pushed his weight up 28
pounds to 208 through "a lot
of weightlifting, a lot -of
eating and a lot of sup-
plements" but no steroids.
His grade-point average is
now up to 2.7; he's eyeing a
medical career and his

RICHARD PEARL

Staff Writer

I

n the quest for his
ultimate dream,
Michigan State's Mark
Shapiro has encountered a
few ultimate nightmares.
•There was the time last
football season when
Shapiro, then second-string
long-snapper for the Spar-
tans, centered the ball right
into the leg of one of his own
linemen. Up soared the foot-
ball and down plummeted
Shapiro's hopes for a star-
ting role. And the coaching
staff went crazy until the
next week, when game films
revealed the lineman had
stepped in the way of the
snap.
•This season, Shapiro has
enountered a Hurricane and
a monster. The Hurricane is
the No. 2-ranked University
of Miami football team and
the monster is 6-foot-3, 299-
pound noseguard Cortez
Kennedy, whom Shapiro, a
mere 6-footer weighing 208,
faced whenever he centered
the ball on punts, field goals
or extra-point attempts.
Shapiro had two snaps
bounce on the turf at Spar-
tan Stadium--one on a field
goal attempt--as MSU suf-
fered a 26-20 loss.
"Linemen," Shapiro says,
"love to come up the middle
on you because you're so
vulnerable with your head
between your legs."
•And there have been the
real nighttime dreams,
Shapiro says. So intense is
the world of major college
football, he says, that "Even
at night, I can hear the
whistles blowing and the
coaches screaming."
Of course, there's more —
like the dents he collects on
the back of his football
helmet, just above the neck.
Other linemen get theirs on
the front but Shapiro's foes
are into rabbit-punching.
"It's illegal for them to do
it," he says, "but that's the
game."
So what's a nice Jewish
boy from Farmington Hills
doing without a scholarship
in a place like that?
"It's a very personal
thing," he says, "a dream
I've always had, something
I've always wanted to do"
since childhood.
Mark says it began in
Farmington Hills when, as a
high school freshman and
sophomore, he watched the
Farmington Harrison varsi-

Mark Shapiro:
Divine intervention.

ty team win state football
championships. Although
Shapiro eventually would be
the varsity team's center,
Harrison never quite made
it back to the top and it left
him hungry for more: "I
never wore that (champion-
ship) ring."
His mother, Dee, has a
different recollection. She
says when Mark was 5, he
was the object of anti-
Semitic slurs from older
European youngsters with
whom he tried to learn to
play soccer.. At the time,
Kansas City-born Mark and
his family were living in
Switzerland, Denmark and
Belgium where Mark's
father, plastic- surgeon Mar-
shall, was studying his craft.
So painful was the experi-
ence that, when the Shapiros
moved to Michigan, Mark as
a boy of 8 insisted on atten-
ding Yeshivath Beth
Yehudah and wore tzitzit,
though the rest of the family
belonged to Congregation
Shaarey Zedek. And he
wanted to play football, not
soccer.
Shapiro turned into a fine,
if albeit small-by-big-college-
standards gridder. When
only the smaller Michigan
colleges such as Michigan
Tech, Ferris State and Al-
bion showed interest in him
after high school, Shapiro
decided to put football aside
and concentrate on studies.
Some high school friends
chose Michigan State and
Shapiro joined them, plann-
ing to study sports psychol-
ogy.
But old dreams don't die
easily. In the spring of 1988,
Shapiro spotted a Lansing

"Pm playing around
the athletic elite,"
Shapiro says.

.

parents have become his
biggest fans, attending most
games.
Nonetheless, he has a
thankless job at MSU. "If I
snap the ball poorly, every-
body knows it; otherwise,
the punter and the tacklers
get the credit," he says.
And he's not deluding
himself that he's a Big 10-
calibre athlete. "I'm playing
among the athletic elite,"
- Shapiro says. "They have
more talent in their thighs
than I have in my whole
body."
A combination of dedica-
tion and a feeling of in-
debtedness to the "divine in-
tervention" that put him on
the team in the first place
led him to play against the
Miami Hurricanes this sea-
son on Rosh Hashanah.
It wasn't one of his better
games. He had the two bad
snaps, the first causing him
to lose his concentration and
ability to relax ("Nobody
punishes himself more than
he did over that," says his
mother). But Shapiro says he
is learning to put the past
behind him.
Now, with last week's vic-
tory over Iowa behind them,

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