Aztecs linebacker Michael Shawcroft perseveres through the pain

Michael Shawcroft couldn’t wait to get on the football field at San Diego State, so much so that he started showing up for spring practices and meetings even before he was enrolled at SDSU.

Maybe that explains why a variety of injuries the past four years haven’t stopped the linebacker from staying on the field, making plays, making an impact.

As his college career winds down — he has a “COVID year” of eligibility remaining, but hasn’t determined whether he will return — Shawcroft savors every moment.

He grew up with three brothers. He has more than 100 others now.

“The friendships and relationships that I’ve made here, they’re like no other,” Shawcroft said. “I thought I would make friends, but I didn’t think I would make brothers like I have here.”

Shawcroft and the other seniors will be saluted Saturday night at Snapdragon Stadium when SDSU (7-4, 5-2 Mountain West) closes out the regular season against Air Force (8-3, 4-3).

“It’s something that will hold on forever,” Shawcroft said of with teammates past and present. “They’ll be at your wedding. They’ll be at your kids’ parties. … They’re people I know I can always rely on and count on.

“We’ve lived together. We’ve been through those winter workouts together. We’ve been through the summer workouts together. We’ve been through the games together. We’ve been through so much.”

Shawcroft has been through more than most.

He has at times played with his hand wrapped like a club, the result of breaking one thumb as a freshman and the other thumb as a junior.

He has injured his right leg several times, requiring arthroscopic repair on two occasions, and wears a brace on the knee when he practices and plays.

Despite all this, Shawcroft has been on the field for 44 of 46 games over the past four seasons.

“One of the things at San Diego State that we pride ourselves on is our physical and mental toughness,” Shawcroft said. “It’s something I’ve prided myself on. It’s something I was raised on.

“Injuries happen. It’s football. … You just kind of fight through it.”

Shawcroft spends as much time in the trainers’ room as the film room. His practice time is managed in such a way that he can be game ready but not game weary.

The result is that Shawcroft has made plays all over the field this season.

He leads the team with 65 tackles — 10 more than safety Patrick McMorris, who is second in the category — has 4 1/2 sacks among 10 tackles for a loss along with six quarterback hurries and a forced fumble.

“He has a great motor, he’s strong and he’s fast,” said SDSU senior defensive lineman Jonah Tavai, who also is Shawcroft’s roommate. “But his IQ for the game is really high. He can predict plays. He knows where to be and when to be there.

“I really think his instincts for the game and nose for the ball is off the charts and has been since we got here.”

Shawcroft said he never was injured during his high school career at nearby Helix High, where he was the county’s 2018 Defensive Player of the Year.

Prepping so close to SDSU afforded him an opportunity that wasn’t available to other players in his recruiting class.

It enabled Shawcroft to drive the 4 miles from school to the Aztecs practice field to watch spring workouts.

“I wanted to come in with the best chance that I could to play,” Shawcroft said. “I talked to the staff at the time. They said I could come to meetings and watch the practices, so that’s what I did.

“I think it helped me out a lot. …

“The biggest thing for me was seeing the players, seeing the dynamic of the team, seeing how practices went. Little things like that that you don’t usually see until you get on campus.”

SDSU senior wide receiver Jesse Matthews has come to know Showcroft well the past four years, as both a workout partner and teammate sharing an adjoining locker.

“Just thinking of all the injuries he has had to overcome,” Matthews said, “and he keeps bouncing back and is a big player for this team. I think it speaks a lot to his character.”

Matthews also spoke of Shawcroft as a character.

“He is kind of a goofball,” Matthews said. “He loves making jokes, keeping things lighthearted, never taking himself too seriously.

“He is also a very caring person, he cares about you and your mental or physical health. He’s always checking in … I’m glad I befriended him on this journey.”

Whether that journey is extended for another season has not yet been determined.

“I hope so,” Aztecs coach Brady Hoke said. “We’re going to have a couple of meetings during (next) week with a bunch of guys and see where they’re at and see where we’re at.”

Shawcroft said he will need a few weeks to decide what to do.

“Right now I’m just focused on this game, playing Air Force … That’s something I’ll worry about later,” he said. “It’s just something that I need to listen to my body. I’ve had a lot of things happen to me here.

“I need to talk to trainers, talk to coaches and really decide what’s best for me in the next step of my life.”

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