Mac Schilcher Wins Honors on Gridiron

By JONATHAN BURKE

On June 20, Mac Schilcher, a six-foot, three-inch, 240-pound senior who loves to hit, will represent the Vineyard on the football field one last time. Next year, his primary allegiance will move to Wagner College on Staten Island, where he has been recruited to play Division 1AA ball.

Mac is only the fourth Vineyarder ever invited to play in the North/South Shriners game. He follows David Araujo, who made the team in 1984, Greg Belcher 1995 and Ben Higgins in 1997. Mac will join the biggest, strongest and quickest football players across the state in the annual benefit event for the Shiners Burn Clinic.

As with many athletes who stand out in their field, the key to Mac's success is his drive to be the best.

"He just brings an intensity and an emotion to the game that's contagious. He just loves to compete," said Donald Herman, the varsity football coach for the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School.

"When most kids quit when the play stops, I keep going," Mac said. "When I'm on the field, I have all this energy. I don't even remember most of the plays because it's so instinctual. . . . It's where I'm at. I can't even describe it. It's like when you're out there Friday night, Martha's Vineyard, and the lights are on. You've got the whole crowd. Your teammates are relying on you. You're doing things for your team. For me, it's where I can be me, and not get in trouble for it."

Mac is no stranger to trouble, and that's part of what motivates him.

In his sophomore year, after being one of only two second-year students to make the varsity football team, he helped organize an after-hours, underage drinking party and got himself kicked off the team before the regular season had begun. He followed that up with expulsions from the hockey and lacrosse teams.

He accepts responsibility for his bad choices in the party that trashed a residence in Tisbury, but still feels he was treated unfairly in the hockey and lacrosse incidents.

"I had all this attention on me. People were just waiting for me to fail. People expected me to fail," he said. "That hurt me real bad."

Missing football season in his sophomore year was immensely frustrating, Mac said. With a weight machine his mother had purchased for him in April of his freshman year, he had transformed himself physically, and he was aching to prove himself on the football field.

"I had changed so much as a person from freshman to sophomore year. No matter how hard you pushed yourself you can push yourself harder, I learned. And then it was dormant for a whole year," he said.

In the end, his setbacks only fueled his desire to excel.

"I was angry with myself. In the beginning, I was angry with other people. It drove me to work harder," he said.

He had other motivations as well. Three big ones were Alex, Nicky and Duncan, his triplet older brothers. The beating he took from his brothers and their senior friends his freshman year instilled in him a desire to be physically competitive. Football provides a place where he can discharge that energy.

"It was brutal with my brothers. But I got to the point where I could do those things. I could hit kids and get rewarded for it, do good things for the team," he said.

Add Mac's attention deficit disorder (ADD) to the punishment he took from his older siblings and the personal regrets of his sophomore year, and you have the makings of a fired-up kid on the field.

"Sports are a source for me to get out. I have ADD. I'm always looking for this immediate action. With sports, it's right there. You put in and then you get out. You see what you do immediately," he said.

Going into his junior year, still not having played much football to speak of, Mac was serious. He missed the first three games came due to a head injury suffered over the summer, but soon earned a starting position at defensive tackle. After each game, he studied game videotapes to improve his technique.

In his senior year, Mac Schilcher became what Coach Herman describes as an impact player. In addition to starting at defensive tackle, he started at offensive tackle.

He prefers defense because it is a more instinctual position. On offense there are set plays. On defense, you read the offense and react. Mac said he likes to go to the play. "I keep on going when most kids stop," he said.

Mac had 78 tackles this season and was named co-defensive player of the year for the Vineyard team. He was also voted a Mayflower League All-Star by league coaches and was named to the Cape and Islands All-Star Team by the Cape Cod Times.

"Most people overcome obstacles. Mac has to overcome himself. He goes on so long and then he hits that self-destruct button. That hasn't happened this year," Coach Herman said.

The Shriners team consists of players from all seven leagues in Massachusetts. The Vineyard is in league six, smaller than all but one of the seven leagues. Not many league six players make the Shriners team. The league coaches meet post-season to discuss nominations.

"We recommend one or two players from the five teams that are in our league," explained Coach Herman. "It's a great honor and it will be a tremendous experience for him."

The North/South Shriners game will be played at Bentley college in Waltham. The North and South players will practice with their respective squads for the two weeks before the game. Honorary captains of the teams are burn victims treated at Shriners Hospital.

For Mac, his journey is only beginning. "I want to see how well I can do. I'm like 30 per cent right now of what I could be," he said.

Mac said he's not thinking yet about a career in football after college. Coach Herman holds that out as a possibility, though.

"Because he hasn't played that much he's going to be able to be molded in college," Mr. Herman said. He added that Mac is still growing and could easily put on another 30 to 40 pounds.

Through the ups and downs of a rocky high school career, Mac Schilcher's desire to prove himself and prove others wrong in their assessment of him has remained strong. In his junior year, he received a letter of interest from the University of New Hampshire, a Division 1AA school. Vineyard athletes aren't often recruited by Division 1 schools, let alone in their junior year.

Mac said some people told him he should content himself with Division 2 or 3. But he'd rather play Division 1, where everyone is a head higher than he is.

"How you get better," Mac said, "is by being the underdog."