The Detroit Catholic Central High School football team has a simple way of looking at each year.
“We look at each season as state championship or bust,” 2013 Michigan athlete Wyatt Shallman said.
Unfortunately, by those terms, the 2010 season was a bust. Catholic Central was knocked out of the state quarterfinals when current Notre Dame freshman Kyle Brindza booted the winning field goal to give his squad a 9-7 victory, but the Catholic Central players have used it as motivation for 2011.
“We lost to Plymouth in the third round on a Friday and the next Monday, we started working out and running for this season,” said Shallman. “Everybody has put in a lot of work and it’s time to get out there and start knocking heads again.
“We feel that Plymouth played great in that game, we just had a couple of mistakes that shouldn’t have happened. We feel like we should have done a couple things better to give ourselves a better chance to win. That’s really what made us so angry because we hate losing in general. It’s given us a sour taste in our mouths and we’re ready to get back out there and knock some heads and forget about that. It’s been a whole offseason of just thinking about that.”
The 2011 season officially begins for Catholic Central begins on Monday with 4x4s, the school’s version of ‘Hell Week.’
“It starts at 8:59 in the morning, but our coach usually moves it to 7:59,” said Shallman. “It goes until like 3 and it’s just pure running, testing 40s and 300-yard shuttles. It’s kind of a team-building thing because you get through it with your team. It’s like a team-bonding thing.
“Our coach likes to have our football team in tip-top shape and he won’t settle for anything less than your best. That’s kind of when you can show it. You have to lean on your brothers to get through and you have to be tough-minded. When you get through it, it makes it that much better.”
The players have no trouble buying into head coach Tom Mack’s program.
“Coach Mack has been there a very long time, I think 35 years, and he’s won 10 state championships,” Shallman said. “He’s done it with the same formula every time and that’s having a very well-conditioned and upbeat team all of the time. You can’t really argue with 10 state championships over that time.
“It feels good to know that your practices are three times harder than a game. When you get to the game, it’s all fun and you’re really not even that tired. It feels good for a player to know that you still have gas left in the tank.”
Shallman believes Catholic Central has the talent and desire to win a state title in 2011.
“Everyone in the program has really bought into what our conditioning coach is saying,” he said. “No one is slacking off and it’s awesome to see because you don’t see that too, too much. It’s really great to see. I’m excited for it because there’s a lot more cohesiveness on our team this year. It’s going to be a fun season and I think everyone is looking forward to getting back and smacking heads.”
Shallman, who will play running back and defensive end, doesn’t have any personal goals for his junior season.
“I’m just excited to be out there with my CC brothers and to hit some people,” he said. “It’s going to be a fun season. Football season is a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to the whole thing in general. There’s nothing I don’t like about football. I like everything and I’m willing to do everything.”
Shallman believes he’ll be a different player than he was last year.
“I feel like I’m a lot stronger,” he said. “Last season, I was only 14 going into my first game. I just felt like a kid because I was getting hit by 18-year-olds. Even though I’m only 15 right now, I feel like I’m a lot more mature and a lot stronger and faster.
“The confidence that comes with the second year will help because I know the speed of the game now. I know how fast everyone moves and how hard every hit is. I was just a little guy out there getting hit by some pretty big dudes.”
Shallman is now 6-foot-3 and 255 pounds and holds offers from Cincinnati, Michigan and Syracuse. He’s also receiving serious interest from schools like Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oregon, Penn State and Wisconsin, but isn’t worried about how the attention will impact him as a junior.
“That shouldn’t affect the guy across from me,” he said. “When you play football, you’re going to play big-name people. I’m not saying I’m a big-name person, but you can’t be afraid to play someone before you play them just because of what people have said about them.
“Football is a battle every single play and I don’t want people to be afraid of me before the play. I want a good fight every single play. That’s the way I look at it and that’s the way other people should look at.”
Recruiting has slowed down a bit for Shallman since visiting Notre Dame last month, although he has had increased contact with Oregon and Michigan State. He will be at Michigan’s cookout on Saturday. He hasn’t talked to Notre Dame recruiting coordinator Chuck Martin in a couple of weeks, but plans to touch base one more time before the start of the season.
Shallman was quick to point out that the attention he’s receiving from colleges is the benefit of having great teammates.
“At CC, it’s all about the team and that’s what I’m all about,” he said. “The only reason I’m in this position right now is because of my team. I can’t rush for 100 yards, I can’t get touchdowns by myself. I need my line. I need my quarterback, I need everyone. It’s really a joint effort. I’m not the one picking up all of these offers, it’s really my team that’s helping me. I’m just very lucky that I have a great team that has a great work ethic to help me out. I couldn’t be in a better situation and I’m really thankful for them.”