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Soccer standout Mike Mascitti

mascittiThe “student” portion of student-athlete often is glanced over, with the emphasis being placed on “athlete.” But that’s not the case with red-shirt junior midfielder/defender Mike Mascitti of Northern Illinois University. Being a student is front and center — It has to be.

“The reason I’m here is to do well in school,” says Mascitti, a Downers Grove native who starred at Downers South High School. “I always have school No. 1 on my mind each day. If it were soccer first and academics second, soccer would get in the way and I wouldn’t do well in the classroom.”

The Mid-American Conference in which the Huskies compete recognized Mascitti’s academic achievements by naming him to the 2011 Men’s Soccer Academic all-MAC Team.

The Mid-American Conference in which the Huskies compete recognized Mascitti’s academic achievements by naming him to the 2011 Men’s Soccer Academic all-MAC Team. Two teammates, Finn Jor and Pat Sloan, also received Academic Honorable Mention honors.

“Obviously I’m very pleased for Michael, Finn and Pat,” says NIU head coach Eric Luzzi. “It’s not easy to truly excel on the field and in the classroom at the same time, but I am extremely proud of these three guys for being able to also achieve at the highest level in the classroom.”

“It’s definitely an honor to get recognized for the time and effort and sacrifice that goes into maintaining a high GPA,” Mascitti adds. “It’s a lot of sacrifice that goes unnoticed. I dedicate a lot of my free time away from the field to my academic performance. It’s a full-time job away from soccer.”

Mascitti posted a 3.94 GPA on a 4.0 scale majoring in applied mathematics and chemistry. He plans to attend grad school in order to obtain an MBA, and he has his goals set high for the future.

“I would ultimately like to be a vice president of a company or work my way toward being on the executive board of a Fortune 500 company,” he says.

Mike’s father, Jerome Mascitti, points out that a big part of his son’s success, both academically and athletically, is due to his discipline.

“You’ve really got to be a structured individual to make this happen.” Jerome says. “Carrying the class load that Michael has, and being ready to play and the traveling (to away games) that these boys do, it’s unbelievable, it really is. Michael has always been a very structured, very organized individual. Those traits have served him well in college.”

Mascitti’s structured lifestyle also served him well when he suffered a knee lesion in 2007. The lesion occurred while playing travel soccer following his participation in the 1991 Illinois Youth Soccer Olympic Development team, which had won the U.S. Youth Soccer ODP national championships. The injury forced him not only to miss his junior year at Downers South, but an entire year of soccer.

Mascitti had to undergo three surgeries. In order to fix the lesion, surgeons had to scrape bone from another part of Mascitti’s body and inject the bone into his lesion — a process that takes between eight to 10 months to take affect.

“They way he handled those next 13 months, I don’t think I could have handled them that well,” Jerome says. “That year he sat out, it might have devastated some people, but I think it made him stronger.”

NIU, however, signed Mascitti following a senior year at Downers South in which he was named to the Chicago Tribune’s All-State Second Team. Mascitti also was an IHSSCA first-team all-stater.

Mascitti was red-shirted during the 2009 season and appeared in four games for the Huskies in 2010. Last year, he figured heavily into NIU’s defensive sets, entering the game mainly during the second half and seeing action in 13 contests.

“I came in most of the time toward the end of the game — 20, 30, 40 minutes,” he says. “My role last fall was to disrupt play. I kind of pride myself in the blue-collar work ethic.”

But Mascitti also exhibited an ability to put the ball into the net. The Huskies advanced to the NCAA tournament last fall, and Mascitti scored his second career goal in NIU’s 3-0 victory over Western Illinois.

“It was awesome,” he says. “I came in (to the game) in the last 30 minutes and we were up 2-0. Around 2,500 fans were there. It was a great feeling. To share that moment with the team, it was awesome.”

Mascitti has been named one of NIU’s co-captains for the 2012 fall season- – a responsibility he embraces.

“I’m looking to lead and get everybody on the same page,” he says. “But more than anything, I want the team to succeed. If that means taking a lesser role (on the field) for other guys to play, and the team’s doing well, that’s awesome.”

About Mike Sandrolini

Mike Sandrolini has been published in the Elmhurst Independent, Voyager Media, the Daily Herald, the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Bear Report. His stories and columns have been recognized for editorial excellence at regional, state and national newspaper contests over the years. He also has co-authored two books: "Bear With Me: A Family History of George Halas and the Chicago Bears" and "All the Good in Sports." His father, Raymond, is a native of Gaggio Montano, a small village around 30 miles southwest of Bologna.