Team Leader, Team Mentor


When you first meet Michael Mercadante ’15, the stellar running back for the University’s football team, his size and stature are intimidating. But once he starts speaking, it’s easy to realize Mercadante is more than the leader in rushing yards per game in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MSCAC).

He’s also a guy who understands perseverance and what it means to be a mentor and a team player.

“I definitely want to be remembered as the guy who really cared about the team and not just himself,” says Mercadante, the captain who has been a critical player for four years for the Owls as well as a mentor to younger players.

“I just want to be known as the person who wanted to help the other kids on the team and be a positive influence on them,” he adds.

Personal bests

Personally, Mercadante started the season with personal goals of 1,000 rushing yards for the season and 3,000 for his career, marks that may have been considered lofty considering the difficulty he had staying on the field as a sophomore and a junior due to injury.

“Merc,” as he’s known, broke his first personal goal of 1,000 yards in mid-November in a game against Fitchburg and finished his collegiate career with 2,993 career rushing yards.

His freshman year, he rushed 637 yards and scored eight touchdowns while playing in all 10 games, leading the team in rushing while largely splitting carries with Brian Beauchemin ’14.

In his sophomore year at Westfield State, Mercadante’s season ended too soon after a high ankle sprain a little more than halfway through the season. Although he only played in seven games that fall, again his potential was evident, as in two of the games he rushed for more than 150 yards.

Time on the sidelines

Mercadante overcame a number of injuries, large and small, in putting together a tremendous senior season, which had him on the verge of reaching his full potential and meeting a number of individual and team goals.

In November 2013, he had surgery to repair his shoulder, which had been an issue since he was a senior in high school. Although this cut his season short after playing in only six games, he still managed to run for 519 yards in his junior year and helped the Owls win four of those six games.

While he missed a few games at the end of the 2013 season, he did not allow himself to miss any of the winter workouts or spring ball. He admitted he was a little behind physically due to weight loss from the surgery. He knew he had to rebuild muscle, and he trained harder than ever before. “I probably had the best off-season of my life; training-wise, everything came together,” says Mercadante.

Owls head coach Pete Kowalski has been thrilled with Mercadante’s efforts for the team.

“He’s emblematic of our team,” says Kowalski. “He has a blue-collar work ethic, and he’d be the first to tell you that everything he’s able to accomplish is because of his offensive line, his fullback and the opportunities that the passing game opens up for him.”

What teammates say

Mercadante, a native of Wilbraham and a graduate of Minnechaug Regional High School, studies liberal arts with concentrations in movement science, psychology and sociology, and a minor in wilderness studies. He plans to move to Martha’s Vineyard after graduation.

Interestingly, two of Mercadante’s blockers, guard Kyle Seidnitzer ’15 and tackle Eddie Fallon ’15, have been teammates of his since the fifth grade. “He’s a great leader for us, he leads by example, he always brings his best effort and, by doing so, inspires the rest of us to do the same,” says Fallon. “He is kind to everyone.”

The Owls closed out the 2014 season with an overall record of 5-5 and a record of 4-4 in the MASCAC. n


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