When it came time to advise his son about college recruitment, Mick Shoaf was well prepared.
After all, Shoaf had gone through the arguably heaviest recruiting barrage that any Ashtabula County athlete has ever faced as he neared graduation from Grand Valley High School in 1987.
Lou Holtz, Notre Dame’s legendary coach, had sat in Shoaf’s house in Orwell, chatting with Mick’s parents, Joe and Delores. Michigan State head coach George Perles and his assistant, Nick Saban. had tried to lure Shoaf to East Lansing. On his visit to Columbus, Woody Hayes had spent a couple of hours with the Shoafs, pushing the advantages the Buckeyes offered. Southen Cal brought Shoaf out to California and showed him Hollywood.
But Michigan tried to trump the rest of its competition by sending Bo Schembechler and Gary Moeller to Orwell in a helicopter, which landed in the parking lot at the old GV High School.
Shoaf, however, did the expected. He signed with Ohio State, coached then by Earle Bruce, Hayes' successor, after Hayes was fired for punching Clemson nose guard Charlie Bauman. Bauman had intercepted a pass in the 1978 Gator Bowl.
“We got to go to several [Ohio State] games,” Shoaf said of his recruitment by the Buckeyes. “Earle came up here to our house several times.”
“I’m fortunate to have met all those people,” Shoaf said of the recruiting wars.
Just last year, Shoaf had a chance to relive the agony and ecstasy of recruiting. This time, the pressure was less, when his son, Michael, had to decide which college would get his talents in the shot put and discus, which he excelled at Rocky River High School. Mick had been a state discus champion his junior and senior years at GV.
Michael eventually whittled his choices to Ohio State or Notre Dame. This time, the Fighting Irish managed to land Shoaf.
“He really liked Ohio State, but Notre Dame had a lot to offer,” Shoaf said.
Mick himself had an up-and-down playing career with the Buckeyes. He had been a pile-driver of a blocker on a Mustang team which gradually improved and made the playoffs in 1986 — Shoaf’s senior year. Though GV was eliminated in the first round by Hawken and future NFL wide receiver O.J. McDuffie, it was a big step for a Jim Henson-coached team.
Ironically, Shoaf never got to play a down for Bruce, who was fired. John Cooper took the job and used Shoaf at offensive tackle, where he lettered in 1989, 1990 and 1991. He started as a junior, but a back injury kept him from playing his senior season.
That was disappointing, but Shoaf had studied well at Ohio State and earned bachelor and masters degrees in education. He also met his wife, Lisa, while at Ohio State.
After graduation, he returned to northeast Ohio to teach and coach at Maple Heights, then Cardinal. Then, with his administration certificate in hand, Shoaf landed a job in Painesville Township, becoming that district’s superintendent. After 11 years, he became the Rocky River School District Superintedent in 2007, where he just started his 14th year.
In 2008, the first year he was eligible, Shoaf was elected to the Ashtabula County Touchdown Club Hall of Fame.
The move to Rocky River has been a blessing for Shoaf. But, like most superintendents, he has been presented with his greatest challenges this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
All Ohio schools were forced to close their doors after Governor Michael DeWine’s March edict. Each district re-opened, according to its own protocols.
“We go to school a half day and work a half day at home, five days a week,” Shoaf said of Rocky River’s procedure. “Our high school kids are getting a full experience and taking advantage of in-service.
“As far as fall sports are concerned, we're working hard on the protocols so we can have a season.”
The Rocky River gyms and football field are restricted to 15-percent capacity.
“The crowds are not as big, mostly band and football players’ parents,” Shoaf said. “Sometimes there’s room for more. I don’t know if we’ll ever be fully open again.”
Shoaf attended Michael’s football games (he played tight end and defensive end) and track meets until he graduated and now goes to his daughter, Madie’s, volleyball games.
Michael is back at Notre Dame.
“They went on-line for two or three weeks,” Shoaf said. “Track is able to practice outside. Notre Dame is taking a big break after Thanksgiving. They don’t go back until February. They’re also testing a lot of student for safety.”