Prep school football star takes a well-traveled road to Stanford (cont.)
When it came time for high school, Peter and Terri, though satisfied with the education their children had received in Mexico, returned to California. Upon enrolling his son at Piedmont High, Peter approached the football coaches about Shayne's chances of playing. Wary of whether the newcomer -- he would miss the start of freshman training while migrating north -- could catch up, they asked about Shayne's experience. They scoffed when Peter told them that his son had played in Mexico but still welcomed him on the team. A week later, Shayne left a lasting impression when he knocked his counterpart's chin strap off during a tackling drill.
Shayne, a wide receiver and defensive back, quickly became popular with his peers. A student of Mandarin, he was featured in an NPR piece on minorities studying the language. By his sophomore year, he enjoyed the spoils of his athletic prowess, dating a senior, "the prettiest girl on campus," and hanging out with an older crowd.
Things changed in the fall of 2005. To his father, Shayne was underachieving. Though he was by no means failing, his grades slipped below the family's Mendoza line (a 3.5 GPA) and Peter voiced his concerns to Piedmont coach Doug Mandigo. With his son's GPA hovering around a 2.9, the father threatened to remove him from the team, which was competing for the Northern California title. Seeking an agreeable compromise, Mandigo persuaded Peter to allow him to have senior teammate A.J. Chan serve as a mentor and help Shayne with his homework. All was going well until Shayne missed a meeting. Allowed to suit up, he did not play in the next game. Shortly thereafter, he missed the team bus. With two games left in the regular season, Mandigo kicked him off the squad. "He was standing on his last leg," Mandigo said, "and still he did something like that."
Mandigo did not sever all ties, though. The coach, then in his first year at Piedmont, had come west, but his roots were in New England. A Rhode Island native, Mandigo had attended The Holderness School in Plymouth, N.H. Already assisting Chan with his desire to play college football, Mandigo had arranged for Chan to enroll at Trinity-Pawling for a post-graduate year, an idea that was foreign to the native westerner. "A lot of people think those schools are for correctional reasons," says Chan, now a linebacker at Wesleyan, where Mandigo is the defensive coordinator.
At Pawling, there are restrictions on when students can so much as leave campus. With class sizes as small as 10 students, it would be impossible to hide. Grade ledgers have a column for effort, and penalties were handed out to those who loafed. One day, while Shayne, his brother and father were shooting around in the Piedmont gym, Chan mentioned his new path. Peter was intrigued by the opportunity. "I told Shayne he could go to there," said Peter, "or he could get a G.E.D. and start working locally."
Despite being behind in the application process, Shayne was accepted as a result of his promising test scores and the recommendation of Mandigo. To assist with the tuition, the family was awarded need-based financial aid. To provide a fresh start, the school reclassified Skov -- a practice commonly used with many athletes in the prep school system -- so that he could repeat his sophomore year.
James McDougal, who has taught at the school for 15 years and lives in a house attached to Skov's dorm, remembers the newcomer's participation in his advanced placement U.S. History class. While most of the students kept up with political history, Skov provided insight and compassion for what happens to different racial groups. In a class featuring future Princeton and the University of Chicago students, Skov impressed. "They thought they were intellectual monsters," McDougal said. "But they saw this football player, this sophomore, knew what was going on. He fit."