Technology certainly has its downsides, but one amazing aspect of the internet is the information it offers at a click of a button.
One important example for the Aztec community is the SDSU Library’s Digital Collection. Fans and alumni of the school can get lost for hours in the thousands of photographs, dissertations, and other artifacts the university has collected and put online.
A gem from the archives is the 1963 school yearbook Del Sudoeste LXIII. Beginning on page 66, it chronicles the men’s basketball team under the audacious title “Varsity Basketball, Jack and the Giants Sport Thrilling Season.”
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“The Montezumans were paced by 5′ 9″ Jack Shawcroft, the hard-driving, hard fighting “little big man” on the team,” the Del Sudoeste continued. “In the many overtime games the Aztecs had this season, it was Shawcroft who came through calmly and cooly moving the Aztecs to one of the toughest teams on the West Coast.”
Shawcroft, a member of the 2020 Aztec Hall of Fame class along with Erin Flores, Jack Henn, Ronnie Hillman, Linda Howell, and Ernie Zampese, was honored at halftime of last season’s Fresno State game. Due to Covid, the university had to wait a year to celebrate the distinguished group. Shawcroft may have made a name for himself on the hardwood, but receiving his recognition from Aztec Nation could not have come at a better place.
“I think that was more exciting for my dad, obviously, because he was in the stands going crazy,” SDSU linebacker Michael Shawcroft explained about his grandfather’s induction on Episode 20 of The SDSU Football Podcast. “A lot of people didn’t put it together until a few days after the game. They were like, ‘Was that your grandpa?’ … It was special and to be able to do it at one of my games, where I was playing. Having the family there, it was really cool.”
It was poetic that Jack Shawcroft received his alma mater’s highest athletic honor at the intermission of his grandson’s football game. Hollywood could not have created a more fitting tribute.
Blast from the past
Following in his grandfather’s footsteps as an athlete at SDSU, the description of Jack in the Del Sudoeste could eerily be used to describe Michael as well. Listed at 6’2” 220 lbs., the younger Shawcroft plays with passion, energy, and physicality that make him seem bigger than he is. He fits the moniker “little big man” given to Jack in 1963.
The older Shawcroft earned the adjectives “hard-driving, hard fighting” for his playing style. Michael, likewise, competes with a tenacity fitting a point guard driving hard to the basket. He attacks the opposition, contesting every yard. Battling through various injuries in his career, Shawcroft’s main goal in 2022 is to be healthy the entire year.
A fit number 46 is one of the main keys to SDSU’s defense improving on its stellar 2021. When Shawcroft is right, he is nothing short of a game-changer.
Shawcroft possesses that unteachable instinct poorly described as “a nose for the football.” Splitting time at weakside linebacker the past two seasons, he has led the team in forced fumbles and fumble recoveries. The hometown hero has intercepted a pass and returned a blocked punt. In 2019, his true freshman year, when he played nearly exclusively on special teams, Shawcroft led the Aztecs in “third phase” tackles.
When the 1963 annual said Jack Shawcroft’s play made “the Aztecs one of the toughest teams on the West Coast,” it was prophetic. SDSU was one of two universities headquartered in the Pacific Time Zone to finish in the AP Top 25 last year. Michael Shawcroft was a big reason why.
“I think that’s just something that’s been instilled in us,” Shawcroft replied when asked about the similarities between him and his grandfather. “My grandpa put that in all of his kids. My dad put that in me and all my brothers, so the athletic ability and the mindset is something that’s there—being able to handle adverse situations. Being able to be calm, ‘The game is never over. You’re never out of it, just keep working, keep pushing’ is something that’s been instilled in us since we were born.”
The members of the Shawcroft family support and drive each other, figuratively and literally, in their pursuits. Throughout high school, Shawcroft’s mother woke up at 4 am to take him to workouts before school and made him a full regimen of food so he could gain weight. Each pointed to those trips with fondness in recent EVT interviews.
Nurtured with that level of support, Shawcroft, the youngest child in the family, responded on and off the field. He was a star player at Helix High School in La Mesa. In the classroom, he exceeded a 4.0 GPA, receiving scholarship offers from seven of the eight Ivy League Schools.
Building a wall around San Diego
Their family also offers a glimpse into the growth of SDSU as a program. Michael’s older brother, Anthony Larceval, was a three-time all-league performer in high school. In 2008, his senior season, he was the Grossmont League South Division Defensive Player of the Year, a first-team All-C.I.F. San Diego Section selection, and a member of the Division II all-state first team. He went on to win second-team All-WAC in 2012.
His greatest accolade was the 2013 Football Writers of Association of America Courage Award. Larceval fought his way back onto the field following a battle with viral meningoencephalitis, a virus that infects and causes swelling in the brain.
SDSU was a combined 14-34 during Larceval’s high school career, including 2-10 his final year at Helix. The Aztecs, under Chuck Long, did not recruit the East County star. “SDSU was not there for him,” his mother, Liz Shawcroft, said.
Signing with San Jose State, he returned to San Diego with the Spartans as a junior and had a sack in SJSU’s 38-34 victory. It was the first win by the program in San Diego in 60 years.
His younger brother, in contrast, came of age during the Donnel Pumphrey and Rashaad Penny Era. The Aztecs’ record during Shawcroft’s high school years was 39-15. He was in the stands as a prep athlete when the lights went out in Qualcomm Stadium minutes before SDSU’s last-minute win over Stanford. Most importantly, the staff under Brady Hoke and Rocky Long prioritized the players in San Diego more than in previous regimes. It is an emphasis that continues into the present.
The result is Shawcroft is the embodiment of everything Aztec Nation hopes the top prep athletes in the area become. The 2018 CIF City Section Defensive Player of the Year bleeds Scarlet and Black. Not only does he have roots on his father’s side, but his mother was taken to Aztec games by her parents. Shawcroft’s maternal grandfather was instrumental in his development as a person and player.
Michael Shawcroft Aztec for Life
These roots gave him an appreciation for playing in SDCCU Stadium as a true freshman, knowing that as a kid, he looked up to the players on the field, and now, the little boys and girls in attendance were idolizing him. An Aztec before he became a player, he understands the impact of the newly built Snapdragon Stadium.
“I have a lot of experiences like this,” Shawcroft said. “You just go around get some groceries. If you’re wearing an SDSU football shirt or whatever, you have people coming up to you saying, ‘Congrats on the good season. I wish I could make it to more games. I just couldn’t make the drive.’ … That’s going to change with the stadium back where it is.”
“To having a community there, having all your fans that are going to be there and support you. It’ll bring back a connection that was maybe lost a little just with people going to the games, people tailgating outside, interacting with each other that we haven’t gotten in a little while. It’ll bring back a sense of community in San Diego.”
Role in 2022
As the hometown hero turns his attention to his senior year on the Mesa, the linebacker room is different than the past few seasons. Andrew Aleki and Segun Olubi are both out of eligibility after incredible careers. On paper, there appears to be an opening for more playing time for the dynamic player from Spring Valley. The wild card in that equation is how the coaching staff utilizes Caden McDonald.
McDonald was the primary “Sam” LB the past two years, standing up on the line to give SDSU a balanced front. The 2021 Team Captain is listed first on the post-spring depth chart at that position, but he is also listed first at the “Mike” LB, a role he played his first three years on campus.
If SDSU linebackers coach and defensive coordinator Kurt Mattix chooses to employ McDonald upfront, it would mean more snaps at “Will” LB for Shawcroft, who is listed first on the two-deep along with Seyydrick Lakalaka. Lakalaka is also listed as a co-starter at the “Mike” and would slide there if McDonald stays at the “Sam.”
Another possibility is for McDonald to vacate the “Sam” in favor of his brother Cooper. In this scenario, Shawcroft, Lakalaka, and McDonald would split reps at the two off-the-ball LB positions. Add in the younger players pushing for time behind him, and the importance of Shawcroft’s offseason comes into focus.
“Going into this season, my approach is the same as it is every year,” Shawcroft said. “Whether I am splitting reps or playing every rep, it doesn’t matter. You have to go in with the right mentality. You have to tell yourself that you’re the best player on the field at all times and you can do anything. I don’t think that’s ever changed for me. Now, whether my role changes on the team that’s not up to me. That’s up to coach. I’m just going to do whatever I can.”
Jack Shawcroft led the Montezumans from 1963 to 1965. He never led the school to a conference title. The closest he came was the 1963 season. In the final game of the year, needing a road win at fifth place Long Beach State to tie for a CCAA title and earn a spot in the regional playoffs, the Aztecs lost 78-63. In 2022, the Aztec Hall of Famer’s grandson is looking to accomplish something he could not do during his time on Mesa.
Like his grandfather, Shawcroft has been close to bringing a title to America’s Finest City. In 2019, SDSU, a road victory away from a West Division title, lost 14-11 to Hawaii. Last year, the Aztecs fell short in the championship game against Utah State.
Carrying an amazing family legacy into the historic 100th season of Aztec football, leading SDSU to a 22nd conference championship would be a storybook ending to his great career. Whatever the outcome, he will do what he has done at every stage of his career. Michael Shawcroft will play for his city in his city.
My earliest sport’s memory involve tailgating at the Murph, running down the circular exit ramps, and seeing the Padres, Chargers and Aztecs play. As a second generation Aztec, I am passionate about all things SDSU. Other interests include raising my four children, being a great husband and teaching high school.