1. Sports

Shawn Loiseau, linebacker star at Division II Merrimack, hopes to make big name at East-West Shrine Game

Published Jan. 20, 2012

ST. PETERSBURG — For all the big-time colleges with familiar logos gracing the sides of helmets at the East-West Shrine Game on Saturday night, there is also the obscure blue-and-gold "MC" proudly worn by linebacker Shawn Loiseau of Division II Merrimack College.

For small-school obscurity, it's hard to top Loiseau, who has never played before a crowd of more than 3,000 in his life and hadn't flown in a plane until he took one here. Coaches have taken to calling him "Rudy," after the Notre Dame walk-on of movie fame, even though this Rudy is 6 feet 1 and 242 pounds, with 254 tackles in the past two seasons.

"It's incredible. My whole life, I've been told I wasn't good enough to play versus these guys," said Loiseau, who didn't have major-college interest coming out of high school in the Worcester, Mass., suburb of Shrewsbury. "It feels great to be surrounded by great players. I'm watching these guys on TV, and now I get to have them as my teammates. I'd never been on a plane. I'm used to 12-hour bus rides for away games. This whole experience is incredible."

Loiseau was a two-time conference player of the year at Merrimack, with an enrollment just more than 2,000 and located in North Andover, Mass. He helped the Warriors win the Northeast 10 conference in 2009. His college experience is unlike most of the players in St. Petersburg this week, but it was everything he hoped.

"I got told I would play early, win a championship and be surrounded by great guys, and did all three of those things. I couldn't ask for anything more," Loiseau said.

Merrimack never has had a player drafted since launching its program in 1996, but Loiseau is on the NFL radar; there may have been 1,134 fans at his final home game, but there were also 27 NFL scouts, coach John Perry said.

"One of my biggest things is I never want to be outworked," he said. "No matter what it is, whenever I step on a football field, I never want to be outworked by anybody. I come from a small school, so (Saturday) I just want to go out there, fly around and make plays."

If there's anyone who can appreciate the small-school star, it's East linebackers coach Sam Mills III, who starred at Division II Montclair State, just as his late father, Sam, did before a 12-year NFL career.

"This is a big week for Shawn. It reaffirms his thinking that he can play with these guys on this level, and it's good for us as coaches to see him play with guys at this level," said Mills, now an assistant with the Carolina Panthers. "Whenever you get a guy who has that many tackles as he has, you like to bring him here to confirm that there's no transition for him. He's fine."

There are some big transitions for Loiseau this week. His father called with news of 4 inches of snow in Shrewsbury, so Loiseau is the one walking around in a tank top while his Florida teammates are in jackets. And the idea of getting paid to play football — even $150 in walking-around money this week — is a novelty in itself.

"It doesn't even make sense to me. The thing called 'per diem.' They've got this thing, you show up and they're like, 'Shawn, here's your per diem,' " he said. " 'What is that?' They're like, 'This is money.' I said, 'What do you do with it?' They said, 'You can do whatever you want with it.' "

Loiseau gets a huge spotlight Saturday with a chance to show he belongs, not only with the major-college stars but as an NFL prospect. The early impressions in practice this week have been promising.

"You see his attitude and intensity. Humongous," Mills said. "You see his leadership. He can run with guys, he can tackle. He's a big hitter. Once you get lined up, football is football. You see the guys that make plays. Shawn has shown he's a guy who can make plays."


  1. Could Cam Newton be the Bucs starting quarterback next season? One betting service has set the odds at 25:1.
    But they’ve labeled other contenders as potential starters for Tampa Bay
  2. Sidney Crosby is a large part of why the Penguins don't have many down years. GENE J. PUSKAR  |  AP
    Crosby doesn’t have down years, which is why the Penguins don’t have down years.
  3. The Nationals' Juan Soto hits a two-run double off Astros starter Gerrit Cole during the fifth inning of the World Series opener. Soto also hits a solo home run. ERIC GAY  |  AP
    Washington holds on for a 5-4 victory in Houston.
  4. World Series, Lightning and more sports on the air.
  5. Nicholas, a rescued bottlenose dolphin at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, made his World Series pick. Photo provided by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
    The Astros opened as the biggest World Series favorite in 12 seasons. But check out what’s going on poolside at Clearwater Marine Aquarium before making your bets.
  6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard, top, is tackled by Los Angeles Rams strong safety John Johnson during the first of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ  |  AP
    Tampa Bay reportedly rebuffed New England’s interest in third-year tight end O.J. Howard.
  7. Bucs receiver Bredshad Perriman will look to return to action against Tennessee on Sunday. MARK LOMOGLIO  |  AP
    But will the Bucs have the right tackle and No. 3 receiver in the lineup on Sunday against Tennessee?
  8. Armwood senior Patrick Oden rips off a long run after catching a short pass during first-half action against Wiregrass Ranch earlier this season. SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times
    Defense leads the way, especially for the area’s top two teams, Armwood and Lakewood
  9. This Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, photo shows the graded dirt surface where sod will be placed in November inside what will be the stadium for David Beckham’s Inter Miami MLS soccer team that opens its inaugural season in 2020 at the site of the former Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. TIM REYNOLDS  |  AP
    Construction is on schedule, with all signals pointing toward everything being ready for the team’s first home match that’s likely to come in March.
  10. Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston, seen running runs onto the field before the team's game against the Panthers in London, may be running out of time with Tampa Bay. TIM IRELAND  |  AP
    The former 1-2 draft picks are draft-bust brothers.