Thursday, September 6, 2007

Michael Pitre Feature (FSN Airdate: Aug. 2006)

In addition to my regular posts, I will also be sharing some of the feature stories I write for FSN. Some of these are from last season.

The average fan attending a college football game has no idea what physical and mental pressures these athletes must endure. And yet, not every football player is capable of dealing with those pressures--let alone overcoming them to be successful.

However, there are individuals such as Michael Pitre, a quiet unassuming fullback for the UCLA Bruins. A player not even many UCLA fans would recognize because he doesn't light up a stat sheet nor does he bring additional attention to himself. But to a man, the Bruins say Pitre is one of the most indispensable players on the roster.

"I'm willing to do whatever it takes for this team to win," said Pitre. "If it means touching the ball more [or] if it's blocking. I'm just gonna try to do my job to the fullest."

But there's much more to Michael Pitre than his bone-crushing blocks or his versatility out of the backfield. Pitre is a survivor. In fact, it's amazing he's even playing football at all.

After just 3 practices his freshman year, doctors advised him to end his career before it even got started out of fear that a spinal condition could result in paralysis. Advice Pitre was unwilling to follow.

"I realized that I couldn't be at school without football," Pitre said. "Football to me was everything. It's what I've always wanted to do. And with the condition that I have, I would hate to get hurt outside doing something else living my everyday life, and miss an opportunity to play college football."

But that physical injury pales in comparison to the mental pain Pitre suffered off the field. His mother, Allison, was diagonsed with thyroid cancer while he was in high school. A tragic blow that caused ripple effects throughout the family, especially to Michael, the youngest of 4 children.

"When my mom got sick, my mind really wasn't on school," said Pitre. "I would come home and see her struggling, or I would have to miss school to take her to her chemotherapy. There were alot of times I was away from school. That stuff wears on you after a while."

Odds are most of us do understand. Just about everyone has been touched in some way or another by cancer. But as daunting a task as it was to deal with his mother's deteriorating health, Pitre actually found inspiration in his mother's struggles.

"It really made my focus have to go back to school and what I was doing," said Pitre. "I was one of the few at-risk players to get into UCLA. "I was not only going to high school, but I was also going to a junior college repeating a math class that I didn't pass at my high school to get into UCLA. So I think it really refocused my mind on what my goal was."

Pitre's mother finally succomb to cancer in March 2003, but not before instilling into her son a passionate work ethic that promises to serve him on and off the field for several years to come.

"I try to tell myself if she can sit there and go through the things she went through then I can come out here and work for 2 hours a day and bust my butt on the field because she was fighting the ultimate battle," said Pitre. "This is something I do for fun."

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