Love and life are deep, maybe as his skies are wide. — Rush “Tom Sawyer”
Author’s note: This story first ran in BedrockSportsMarlboro.com and is running here in sister site BedrockSportsHawaii.com for anyone who likes to read about inspiring football journeys not matter the location on Earth. There are no Hawaii ties on this one.
By now, you may have heard that Marlboro’s big, bruising Liam Shanahan is going to be playing one more season of major college football next fall at LSU.
It was just a few years ago that Shanahan — a 6-foot-5, 304-pound starting center for the 5-5 Tigers last fall — starred for the Marlboro Panthers while playing four sports.
Marlboro’s Liam Shanahan is ready for his second season at LSU. (Image credit: ESPN.com).
And he could swing a mean bat on the baseball field.
Listen to Mark “Sharky” Chatalian, the longtime baseball man from the Highland City, tell it on a recent Facebook post:
“Funny story about Liam … he crushed a home run in a JV game at Wachusett High, a big park. The next season I was running a fundraiser with the baseball team there. There were a couple of players not really listening and talking. I worked my way through it. Usually I ask questions to see if they understood what the fundraiser program was. I asked one last question. I asked if the pitcher that gave up the home run off the big lefty from Marlboro last season in a JV game was there. You guessed it, it was one of the players that wasn’t paying attention. I told him I heard it was still going … all the players roared!”
It turns out that Shanahan’s family roots in Marlboro go pretty far back. His dad, Tom, is from Ireland, yes. But his mom, Catherine, grew up in Marlboro. Furthermore, Catherine’s dad, Tom Lane, was a well-loved Marlboro High School vice principal back in the day. Students at that time endearingly referred to him as Fred for what they thought was a resemblance to TV cartoon star Fred Flintstone.
Former MHS vice principal Tom Lane, Liam Shanahan’s grandfather. (Photo from MHS 1978 yearbook).
Bedrock Sports Hawaii pressed Chatalian for another story that might shed some light on the athletic ability of Shanahan, wh0 spent three years as a Harvard lineman (guard and tackle) before transferring to LSU and switching to center.
“Really nice young man and his father with the Irish brogue is lots of fun,” Chatalian said. “He is a giant leprecahun and always tells me I’m a good lad. When I had Liam at age 11 and 12 in MYBA, he was a coachable kid and big. I had a group of players on my team that played travel ball and we were predicted to be one of the champions that season. We were struggling a little bit and I put together some quotes from famous coaches to us as motivation for the team.
“Fast forward to Liam’s high school graduation party on a nice July night. I arrived a little late after coaching a game and was greeted by his parents. While talking with Catherine, she said how Liam was happy I was coming and how he really liked me as a coach. She asked me if I remembered when he was 12 years old and I gave him those inspirational quotes. I answered yes. Well she went on to tell me he framed his and it was up on his bedroom wall for all those years. And that’s one of the reasons this young man has done so well. Coachable and determined.”
His Marlboro High coach, Sean Mahoney, was asked for a tale that would show what kind of Panther athlete Shanahan was.
Liam Shanahan. (Photo from Twitter).
“Liam was a special young man here at MHS,” Mahoney said. “When you are gifted with size and a superior work ethic in academics and athletics, great things happen. A favorite Thanksgiving memory of Liam is when he was penalized for blocking a Hudson D-lineman 35 yards down field. The referee couldn’t understand that the block started at the line of scrimmage and finished 35 yards later with the Hudson defender on his back.”
And now for Shanahan there will be the business of trying to help the Tigers overcome a lackluster 5-5 season. Down in Baton Rouge, there is always the chance they could return to the top — or near it — like they did with a national title in 2019, when Shanahan was still with the Crimson.
Author’s note: I played Little League baseball on the same team as Shanahan’s uncle, Tom Lane (the vice principal’s son and namesake). I recall going over to his house after practice one day and stayed for dinner. I don’t remember everything about that day, other than I was made to feel really welcome and that it was a really nice family. The team photo from 1972, our 12-year-old season, is below. Tom was a pitcher/first baseman batting in the middle of the order and I was a shortstop batting second for Joe Cullinan Pintos.
The 1972 Joe Cullinan Pintos. Bottom row: Dave Tomczyk, Russ McKinnon, Nick Abramo, Glen Elliot, Dan Clark, Alex Yacyshyn, John Orr, Brian Russell. Top row: Mr. Morgan, Bruce Ebell, Tom Power, Richard Aseltine, Tom Lane, Mr. Ebell, Brad Bonell, Dana Lemarbre, Jeff Angers, Mr. William Orr.