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Q & A With ‘The Captain’

J.P. Shohfi, a 2016 graduate of San Marino High School and member of the Titans’ record-setting 2015 football team, scored the game-tying touchdown and made a key reception to set up the game-winner as Yale defeated Harvard in Shohfi’s final game as a Bulldog. Scott Daves Photos

Last weekend, Tribune Staff Photographer and San Marino resident Scott Daves traveled to New Haven, Connecticut to watch and shoot the final game of J.P. Shohfi’s outstanding football career at Yale University. Scott and J.P. sat down before and after the Bulldogs’ incredible 50-43 win over Harvard in what is known simply as “The Game,” during which J.P. promised Daves “a show.” He got one…

San Marino Tribune: How did it feel to be chosen as captain of the Yale football team?

J.P. Shohfi: “It was a true honor. There is so much history with Yale and the fact that my teammates had picked me of all people, because there are so many people who could have filled those shoes and are much more deserving than me. This was such a huge honor.”   

SMT: You have had such a great season with an 8-1 record. What have you learned?

JP: “The word ‘Sacrifice’ comes to mind…and Pride. You know its not easy to play the game of football on this level, there are a lot of sacrifices you have to make, but is all worth it because everyone is in the same boat. Everyone is making the same sacrifice because we all have the same goal. I have true brothers here. We all work hard, and you have to, in order to be successful.”

Shohfi meets the press and, right, kisses the Ivy League championship trophy. Scott Daves Photos

SMT: Who has been your biggest inspiration?

JP: “Obviously my family. My mom [Kim] and dad [John], sister [Ellie] and brother [Caleb]. I see how hard they all work and the love and support that they have given me and the sacrifices that my parents have made to get me here. I would also say my high school Coach Mike Hobbie. He helped prepare me for the next level in life and taught me that no matter who you are when you go to college and play sports you are among some of the very best players from all across the country. Coach Hobbie helped me to focus on my talents and prepared me as a man to take on responsibility and be the best that I could be. Next is, collectively, my teammates. Whenever I get down, I think of them. They have all given so much to be here and the sacrifice and commitment is so inspirational. No matter where I go and what I do I will take these brothers of mine with me.  Lastly, I would say Brendan Leon.  He was a close friend of mine, who died our senior year in high school. I think about him all the time and I live for him and the opportunities that he missed out on. When I am having troubles with a test or a situation, I think what would Brendan say or do? He was a hardworking, fun and funny person, both on and off the field. I am so grateful to have known him and I take those thoughts with me everywhere I go.”

SMT: What do you see as the main difference between high school and college football?

JP: “First, the skill level. Like I said, when you play college sports you are playing with all of the very top high school athletes. And college sports are a full-time job! Not just on the field but 24-7 off the field as well. You are playing on a whole different level and if you love your sport, you are in heaven. You have to be constantly aware of how people look at you and how you carry yourself. You are representing your school and that’s both a great honor and a great privilege! It is such a grand commitment.”

SMT: How has your time here at Yale and playing football further prepared you for life?

JP: “That’s easy. When you play a sport—any sport—you have to work together. You all have the same goal and that is to win. The goal is the easy part, but winning is hard.  Everyone has the same goal and to get to the win is hard. You have to look deep inside and ask yourself what do you have to offer and are you willing to do that? Some people can say yes, but the true work is hard. I know I have used the word ‘sacrifice’ a lot in this interview, but to see your friends and bothers in football make the sacrifice for the greater goal of the team is truly inspirational and makes you want to work even harder. Going forward in life, it is these experiences that I will take with me. Working together with people is the key to success. Everyone brings their own unique experience and baggage to the situation, but only when you all have a common goal and are open about what you can offer are you then able to work on conquering that goal.”

SMT: What is the future for J.P. Shohfi?

JP: Well, this game will be our last. It will be truly emotional. The Ivy league does not go to a playoff game or a bowl game, so this is it. I have played 40 games in the past 4 years with my teammates and it will be filled with emotions when its all over. I cannot describe what that moment will be like.  Right now, I am just focused on ‘The Game.’ We are 8-1 and want to finish the season 9-1. Normally we would be nationally ranked at #25 in the country, but that’s not reality in the Ivy League. My goal is to go to medical school, to help other people and to give back. Beyond that I don’t know what the future is. I’m just taking it one day at a time and enjoying every moment.”


EDITOR’S NOTE: A few weeks ago, Tribune Staff Photographer and San Marino resident Scott Daves called with a most intriguing proposal. “I want to go to Connecticut and see the Harvard-Yale game,” he said as soon as I said ‘Hello?’ It’s J.P.’s [Shohfi] final game and I really want to go and I want to take pictures and I want to do a story.”

Who would stand in the way of such enthusiasm? Certainly not us…

Daves has shot San Marino football for several years, including the magical 2015 season when San Marino won the Rio Hondo League, CIF and California Southern Region championships before losing the State title game and Shohfi was one of the squads many stars. J.P. chose to attend Yale and last year was voted by his teammates to serve as captain, an honor that is given to only one player per year. Daves used his influential San Marino Tribune press pass to gain sideline access and on several occasions was seen standing right next to Bulldog Coach Reno on ESPN’s coverage of what is known in college football circles simply as “The Game.” And what a game it was, among the more memorable contests of the entire season, at any level. Yale battled back from a huge first-half deficit of 22-3 to tie the game on a touchdown pass on the final play from scrimmage (a touchdown pass that Shohfi caught and wedged into the end zone) that sent he game into overtime. Shohfi made another key reception in the second overtime that led directly to the winning score and a 50-43 win for the Bulldogs.

The game made headlines around the world as the result of a halftime demonstration by students from bot schools, who plopped down at midfield to protest climate change, calling for both universities to divest their financial interests in fossil fuel companies.

“The protest grew from about 100 students to over 500 students and some parents and lasted for almost an hour, delaying the second half from starting,” Daves said. “Eventually police officers were dispatched onto the field, pleading with the protesters. The chancellors from both schools tried to resolve the situation and resume the game. Some of the protestors wanted to get arrested so they could post it on social media. The officers obliged the protestors and the game went on.”

The resulting 48-minute delay resulted in further drama—not that any more was needed—as the fact that the Yale Bowl has no secondary source of lighting quickly became a matter of importance. Daves even mentioned the darkness on a call during his drive from New Haven, Connecticut to New York’s LaGuardia Airport after the game.

“It was getting really dark,” Daves said. “They could not have played much longer. At all. I asked the head referee during a time out if they would call off the game. He said if it gets too dark, he would have no choice but to call the game and the score would stand at the time of the interruption. That would mean Harvard would win, as they were ahead.”

Saves had caught up with Shohfi on the field after the game.

“Yeah it was surreal, but we were ready to go till tomorrow,” said J.P., who caught 10 passes for 103 yard and the game-tying touchdown. “It didn’t matter the time of the day. We were ready to go again and again and again.”

But play they did and make plays J.P. did, which came as a surprise to absolutely nobody who has watched him rise to the occasion time and time again, dating all the way back to the founding Sunday afternoons of the San Marino Community Athletics Association.

“That may have been the greatest performance ever by a college athlete from San Marino,” said a resident with substantial knowledge of such matters. “Can you think of anything better?”

No.

The same person suggested that Shohfi’s performances on Sunday afternoons might not yet be over or limited to Titan Stadium.

“He’ll at least get a tryout from some NFL teams,” said the individual. “They’d be crazy not to.”

Scott Daves caught up with J.P. before and after last Saturday’s opus. 

“Yale’s coach Tony Reno was quoted in saying, ‘People say that this is the greatest rivalry in all of sport and I think it was on display today,” Daves told The Tribune. “I would have to agree. I asked J.P. how his emotions were after being named the player of the game and winning the Ivy Bowl. ‘Thrilled,’ he said. ‘This is something I will never forget.’ Neither will I.”

 

–Mitch Lehman

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