As he prepared to head out to the Super Bowl – the last football game in which he would ever play – Bishop Hendricken senior captain Chris LoPresti peaked into the room where his younger brother, Michael, slept soundly. Quietly, LoPresti walked over to Michael and planted a kiss on his forehead.
Michael didn’t stir or make a sound. He wouldn’t be attending the Super Bowl later that day, cheering his older brother on.
Michael has never spoken a word to his older brother.
Yet Michael provides LoPresti with his biggest motivation.
Michael has Mitochondrial disease, the same disease that ended the playing career of Minnesota Twins General Manager and former Hendricken star Rocco Baldelli.
Michael’s case is rare and more severe. He can’t speak, eat or walk. He receives nutrition through a feeding tube and requires constant care. His mental development is that of a three month old. He wasn’t expected to live beyond two years-old. He is now 14.
“He’s a miracle,” said LoPresti.
Lopresti admits he didn’t always feel that way. As a youngster, he was embarrassed when his brother squealed – the only sound Michael has ever made.
“I used to be embarrassed, but he has taught me so much,” said LoPresti. “He has taught me kindness, empathy. He made me stronger, taught me how to care, and he motivates me to work hard because I know he isn’t able to do the things I can do. I’m lucky to be able to play football and go to school. ”
There are five children – including four boys – in the LoPresti family. Michael is the youngest. In the middle of the five boys, is the lone sister Christina. She was adopted from Ethiopia when she was about three years-old. Now a teenager , she suffers from Psychological Non-Epileptic Seizures (PNES). She has recurring seizures which has forced her to spend days, sometimes weeks in the hospital.
“We are not your typical football family,” said LoPresti 6’2”, 250 pound senior lineman and two-sport athlete at Hendricken. “Throughout my life I have been surrounded by individuals with unique vulnerabilities who have made me able to see things from a new perspective.”
— Chris LoPresti (@chrislopresti54) May 9, 2021
He is not looking for sympathy. In fact, few know of the challenges he continues to face.
“They are real life challenges I deal with in my life which have enabled me to be more compassionate and molded me into the man and athlete I am today,” he said.
He is extremely outgoing, but rarely shares his personal story. He uses it internally to fuel his success in the field and in the classroom.
LoPresti’s strength, leadership and desire to achieve come from those with whom he surrounds himself at home every day – including his parents, who have made sure Chris is able to play two sports and participate in a variety of activities with little interruptions.
It hasn’t been easy. His dad, Tony, is a professor at Salve Regina. His mom is the glue that keeps the family together and moving in the right direction. There are doctor visits, hospital stays, therapy sessions, nurses scheduling and so much more. She’s had to miss more of LoPresti’s football games than she has been able to attend. LoPresti insists he understands.
“My mom is the strongest person I know. No doubt,” he said.
Each day brings a new challenge.
Recently, LoPresti returned home from the practice to learn that both his brother and sister were in the hospital simultaneously.
“How am I supposed to go on knowing they were both in the hospital? How am I supposed to focus on school and football when I was so worried about them?” LoPresti said.
Instead, he used this challenge as motivation to do the best he could be in the classroom and on the field.
LoPresti’s hard work has paid off. A two-sport standout, he has excelled and captained both the Hawks’ lacrosse and football teams.
“Chris has been a joy to coach. He is one of the leaders of our team and helps guide all of us with an unwavering moral compass,” said Hendricken Coach Keith Croft. “He works hard, plays hard and is a tremendous teammate. In my opinion he’s the best lineman in the state.”
“He’s just a kid who cares so much. He loves it. He worked his butt off as a sophomore and ended up as a starting right tackle opposite Xavier Truss (Georgia) and Jake Picard (Villanova).” said Hendricken assistant coach Frank Pantaleo. “He ended up as a center and has been a huge part of our success .He has worked hard to get where he is.”
LoPresti’s academic and athletic awards could fill a large trophy case. He is Academic All League, a National Honors student, ranks in the top 20 of the senior class and has a 3.75 GPA. He will attend Loyola-Maryland in the fall.
At the upcoming Hendricken athletic awards banquet LoPresti will receive the Paul Alianiello award, presented annually to the senior athlete who has displayed leadership, loyalty and dedication not only for Hendricken Athletics, but for the entire school community.
“We have a committee that selects the awards,” Pantaleo explained. “There were others up for the (Alianiello) award, but Chris was a unanimous decision. He is a true leader.”
There is much more to LoPresti than his academic and athletic achievements.
“I’m more than a student athlete. Helping others is important to me,” said LoPresti.
His family members have taught him that.
LoPresti’s community service involvement fills two pages on his resume. He is heavily involved in Hendricken’s Options Program and this year would often arrive at school at 7:30 a.m.- long before his first class – to mentor freshmen who were having trouble navigating a new school environment during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I know what it’s like to care for others,”said Lopresti. “I want to help.”
Being part of the Hendricken football program, which he refers to as a “brotherhood,” has helped him on his own challenging journey. Football has been LoPresti’s outlet.
“My teammates and the coaches are incredible.. There is always someone there for you. It goes well beyond football,” said LoPresti.
So when he looked at the scoreboard as he headed off the field at halftime of the Super Bowl on Saturday and saw the score: La Salle 16, Hendricken 14, he thought of his younger brother, his sister and the many challenges that have taken him to this point.
Both his mom and dad were in the stands.
“I thought about what I had been through until this point. My journey. That was my motivation.,” said LoPresti “ There was no way this was how the journey was going to end.”
“Chris has led us all year and is a great mentor to the younger players,” said Pantaleo. “He balanced having fun but also made sure everyone did what needed to be done for us to be successful. He had a mission and wanted to fulfill his mission. Coming up short was not something he was prepared for. It was not something he wanted to experience.”
The Hawks broke open a close game in the second half and captured their ninth state title in the last 10 years with a convincing 43-22 victory over rival La Salle. LoPresti capped off a perfect football career with an incredible unbeaten record and another state championship.
Excitement oozed from every inch of the lineman’s enormous frame while tears streamed down his face.
A day later, he was still emotional.
“I can’t even describe this feeling. It’s the best feeling in the world,” said LoPresti. “This team. This program. These coaches. They mean everything to me. They’ve helped me so much…on and off the field.”