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Shafnisky wonders where time went

As Nick Shafnisky readies for his freshman season at Lehigh University, the standout signal caller at Whitehall High School wonders where the time went.

Shafnisky remembers sitting at a graduation ceremony watching his older sister, Jess, receive her diploma, and for him that moment standing on stage in a cap and gown seemed a lifetime away. Now, he can't believe that he's the one who recently stepped off the stage, document in hand, signaling the end of his high school career.

And what a career it was for Shafnisky. His list of accomplishments alone this year are telling, leading the Zephyr football team to a share of the Lehigh Valley Conference title. He was also the first player in school history to both rush and pass for over 1,000 yards, and earned the league's Most Valuable Player Award, a distinction he shared with Allentown Central Catholic's Colin McDermott.

He also helped the basketball team to a playoff berth this season, and was a member of the record-setting 4x100 relay team in track. '

With such a hefty résumé, Shafnisky was selected as the Male Athlete of the Year by the Whitehall-Coplay Press.

His success on the field was the result of sweat and sacrifice, forged through the principle of hard work. Shafnisky said that the results were maximized by dedicated coaching staffs that brought out the best in him.

"All the coaches I had at Whitehall pushed me until I really couldn't go anymore," said Shafnisky who served as captain this year.

While Shafnisky's physical attributes certainly helped him succeed, the foundation was built on the hours and hours of practice throughout the year. He understood that being a gifted runner and passer needed to be augmented by dedication and desire. He was guided by one belief.

"Don't take anything for granted, just keep pushing," said Shafnisky.

It was that off the field commitment that first grabbed the attention of head coach Brian Gilbert when he arrived at Whitehall two years ago.

"He worked so hard off the field to get himself bigger, stronger, faster, and to get himself where he wanted to be," said Gilbert.

Gilbert said that he showed his teammates the value of hard work and what it takes to succeed. It was a lesson he imparted on the younger players.

"He showed the team how to work hard; he was a leader by example," Gilbert said.

Throughout the year, the Zephyrs looked to Shafnisky for leadership, said Gilbert. Whether it was to help them overcome adversity or rally them late in a game, he was the one player who set the tone. That quality resonated far beyond the playing field.

"For us, he was the leader on and off the field," said Gilbert.

Shafnisky understood that role.

"If you're a quarterback, you have to be a leader," said Shafnisky.

He put himself in the lead-by-example category, showing his teammates the right way to practice and how to conduct themselves on and off the field.

Shafnisky led the team to a 8-1 record in the LVC, passing for 1,628 yards with 15 touchdowns. He also rushed for 1,091 yards, scoring another 19 touchdowns. His stellar season brought with it accolades, and Shafnisky was named to the LVC All-Star team as the quarterback, as well as the aforementioned MVP.

In basketball, Shafnisky was a hard-nosed player, a forward who wanted to claim every loose ball. He was named captain of the team, and once again his sound leadership helped the young Zephyrs reach the postseason.

He started both his junior senior seasons, and his play was defined by his hustle. He understood his role and played with an intensity that helped the Zephs reach the playoffs during that span.

"Sheer hustle can take you as far as you want," said Shafnisky.

Head coach Jeff Jones said that Shafnisky always drew the toughest defensive assignments and would respond in kind. It was that willingness to be a team player that made him a valuable asset on the court.

This spring, Shafnisky joined the track team as a sprinter. He wasted no time in cementing his athletic legacy at Whitehall, becoming part of the school's record-setting 4x100 team.

Through it all, Shafnisky said he's had the support of his family who have been by his side every step of the way. His mother waded through all the emails from prospective schools and helped research each university, while his father drove him to all the recruiting trips. He said each one played an important role, "going hand in hand together," to help him reach his goal.

He said they've been a big part of his success, noting that his father "missed only two summer league basketball games during his whole life."

As he endures four-hour workouts every day in preparation for life as a member of then Mountain Hawks, he hopes to make a contribution as soon as possible. Shafnisky is vying for the starting quarterback job and knows it will be a tough road ahead since he's a freshman. Still, his hope is to lead Lehigh back to a Patriot League Championship and eventually into the Division I playoffs.

"To win a championship would be the biggest thing," said Shafnisky.

Gilbert is sure Shafnisky will succeed since he's a fierce competitor.

"No matter what sport he plays, he's a competitor," said Gilbert. "He just has that refuse to lose attitude."