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Macchi, South All-Star, then on to the Eurobowl

Article in 2006 Football Program by Dick Sparrer

It was a rough first quarter. The season was on the line for Valparaiso University in a November home game against Drake, but David Macchi and the Crusaders were off to a rocky start.

The senior quarterback had completed only 1 of 8 passes, and the Crusaders were trailing Drake 27-6 in a game that was quickly getting away from them.

Macchi was standing on the sidelines during a break between periods, reflecting on his first-quarter performance and hoping for someone to offer some words of encouragement. That's when he heard the familiar voice of his sister, Julie, who had left the hospital with a 103-degree fever to attend the game.

"She came down on the field and starting yelling at me," Macchi recalls with a smile. "She said, 'What are you doing? Get it together!' " Words of inspiration? In a way. David Macchi wouldn't have expected any less.

The kick in the pants from his sister was just what the doctor ordered. Macchi returned to the field to lead one of the most dramatic turnarounds in Valparaiso football history. The Crusaders battled back to take the lead and ultimately a 51-45 overtime victory over Drake.

But then, leading teams to victories has become rather commonplace for Macchi over the course of his football career. He drove the Willow Glen Rams to a league title as a high school junior, and he led West Valley College to a 9-2 record and bowl victory in 2001. He sparked Valparaiso to a championship season as a senior QB in 2003, and in his first year as a professional playing in Europe he took the Bercamo Lions to a the National Football League Italy crown and into the Eurobowl championship game.

And in the summer of 2000, he was the quarterback for the South team that nailed a tight 16-8 victory over the North in the 26th annual Silicon Valley Youth Classic Charlie Wedemeyer High School All-Star Football Game. Macchi completed 8 of 13 passes for 71 yards and a touchdown in the South victory.

Despite going on to success at the collegiate and professional levels, Macchi has fond memories of his high school all-star experience.

"That was awesome," says Macchi of playing in the summer all-star game. "It was a great opportunity to get together and play with the guys you had played against in high school. They were players that you hated during the season, but when you played with them you found out that they were all pretty good guys. I really enjoyed it."

An outstanding high school career at Willow Glen was Macchi's springboard into the summer all-star game, but it wasn't enough to get him the college offer he was hoping for. Macchi's college choice listed in the all-star program was West Valley.

"A lot of schools were interested, but it all came back to my height," says the 5-foot-10 quarterback. "Some would ask if I had ever thought about playing defense and a lot of schools told me to just walk on."

But Macchi was intent on giving it a shot as a quarterback, and West Valley coach John Hancock was willing to provide that opportunity.

"He taught me a lot more than just how to be a quarterback," Macchi says of Hancock. "He taught me the mental aspect, and how to be a leader."

Macchi also learned something else at West Valley ... patience. He started his freshman season as the back-up quarterback for the Vikings, and after three years as a starter at Willow Glen, sitting on the bench took some adjustment. "Putting in all the hard work and not getting the reward of playing, that was hard," he says. "But I think playing against our No. 1 defense every day in practice made me a better quarterback."

He started just four games as a freshman for a West Valley team that went 8-4, then took over the starting job as a sophomore and earned a place on the all-conference second team.

That's when some colleges really started to pay attention. But it was the interest that Valparaiso had shown from his high school years that seemed to stick with Macchi, and he took a trip to the school in Northwest Indiana in the off-season. It turned out to be a perfect match.

"Our offense was real diverse, and we throw the ball a lot there," Macchi says. "I was very fortunate. It was a great system, they had great coaches and they had five receivers who were all tall, fast and athletic."

The only tough thing? The weather in the Midwest for a California boy.

"Sometimes I'd say, 'What are you doing in Indiana?' " he recalls with a chuckle. "It was hot and humid, and you'd start sweating just walking to double days in the morning."

"But the winters were the worst," he adds. "During the playing season, it gets dark early there, and it's cold. In the last game of my junior year, it was 15 with the wind. My toes were freezing.

"But I guess it made you tough."

And Macchi was certainly tough, especially on the opposing teams in the Pioneer Football League. He started two seasons for the Crusaders and his numbers were incredible. He passed for a school-record 3,763 yards and 38 touchdowns in 2003 when he led Valparaiso to the PFL championship. In the league championship game against Morehead State, Macchi threw for 360 yards and four touchdowns and ran for two more TDs in the 54-42 win.

It was a couple of weeks earlier that Macchi had led the Crusaders from three touchdowns down to beat Drake in overtime, thanks to the wake-up call from his sister, Julie.

Julie Macchi, like her brother after her, was an athlete at Willow Glen, starring as a field hockey player. And she and her parents, John and Linda, were in Indiana for parents weekend. For her to provide that kind of encouragement came as no surprise to David, whose family has been supportive throughout his career.

"My mom has helped a lot and my dad recorded every game until I went to Indiana," Macchi says.

Macchi left Valparaiso with most of the school's single game, season and career passing records, but he was a little surprised when he was only named to the all-PFL second team. He wasn't disappointed for long.

"The same day I found out about the all-conference team, I got a call that I made All-American," Macchi says. He was named to the Sports Network NCAA Division 1-AA Mid-Major All-America first team.

After his success at Valparaiso, Macchi decided to give professional football a try, but again his size-5-foot-10, 190 pounds—was a factor.

The National Football League wasn't interested, but the Canadian Football League was. He went to a tryout in Alabama, then was invited to a camp in Calgary.

"It was between me and three other guys for the third and fourth spots," he says. "Going into the last day I thought I had a chance, I thought I had my foot in the door. But then they told me that they were going in another direction with a different guy.

"To be that close to being a professional athlete, you get that taste in your mouth."

He gave it another try with the San Jose Sabercats of the Arena Football League, but again barely missed making the squad. "Never in any sport was I ever told that I couldn't play," he says. "It was getting frustrating."

He took a year off as a player and assisted Mark Krail on the coaching staff at Pioneer High School, then got the call he'd been waiting for.

"I received a call from an Italian coach," he says. "I thought, 'What is this Italian football? Is it soccer? How did they know I played soccer when I was little?' "

No, it was football. And when they offered a contract, an apartment and a car, Macchi signed up and was a member of the Bergamo Lions of the NFLI.

"It was a great opportunity to go there — that's my heritage," says Macchi, who roots are in Italy. "I got to see the apartment where my grandmother was born."

He also got to play football at the professional level and led the Lions to a 13-1 season as the starting quarterback. "The level of football was very good," he says. "They have some pretty talented guys over there, and only a certain number of Americans can be on the field at the same time."

It was tough being a 23-year-old quarterback taking charge in a huddle that included veterans as old as 38 and 39. "It made it harder being younger," he acknowledges. "I had to earn their respect by working hard and by the way I played." Macchi played hard for the Lions, so hard that he suffered an injury to his throwing arm.

"I'm taking this season off to work on my arm and get it back in shape," he says. "But I look forward to going back over there. I'm in the process of trying to get my Italian citizenship — it broadens your value to the team."

His plan is to return for the 2007 season to play for the Lions or some other European team. And if he gets off to a slow start in Italy, Austria, France or wherever he may be, he just could hear a little tough love coming from his sister, Julie, in the stands behind him.

If he does, David Macchi won't be a bit surprised. He'll just feel right at home.