Long before Masry Mapieu was a defensive tackle being sought after by Power Five conference college programs across the country, the 6-foot-4, 295-pounder started his middle school career as a running back.
By the end of his first practice at McCool Junction, the Lincoln Journal Star captain of the 2017 Super-State team knew his future was destroying running backs, not being one himself.
Damon Kaliff, a standout quarterback for York who graduated last spring, delivered the first hit Mapieu ever experienced playing football. And it’s one the Nebraska recruit will never forget.
“I was running with the ball and Damon just laid me out,” Mapieu said of Kaliff, who like Mapieu transferred from McCool Junction to York prior to his sophomore year. “That’s still one of the hardest hits I’ve ever taken. I definitely wanted to play on the defensive side of the ball after that.”
York coach Glen Snodgrass was certainly happy with that decision. Mapieu has been the cornerstone of the Dukes defense for the past three seasons, taking care of the dirty work inside, drawing the attention of two to three offensive linemen and opening up tackling lanes for the linebackers and safeties to make the plays.
Kaliff had already been at York a year when he brought Mapieu around to visit prior to his sophomore year in 2015. Mapieu immediately caught the attention of the coach.
“Masry came to the weight room one day and told me his family was planning to bring him to York (for the next school year),” Snodgrass said. “I told him ‘I think I can find a uniform for you.’"
The strength and physical ability was immediately there for Mapieu, who now bench presses 385 pounds, dead lifts 500 and squats 425. Now he’s also a football player.
“If you look at film from his sophomore year and now, he’s so much better in terms of his technique and how to use his hands,” Snodgrass said. “He’s really just scratching the surface in terms of what kind of player he can be at the next level.”
Mapieu’s defensive value can’t be measured by individual tackles, sacks or tackles for losses. It can be evaluated, however, by how many of his teammates shine in the limelight as three of them — linebackers Garrett Snodgrass and Simon Otte and defensive back Brady Danielson — are also first-team Super-Staters.
And it can be graded by the scoreboard as well. York registered shutouts in its semifinal and final victories over Elkhorn South and Omaha Skutt, respectively. The Duke starters also blanked Scottsbluff in the first three periods of the quarterfinals before the Bearcats scored on York’s backups in the fourth quarter.
“It’s not easy to make tackles when a center and two guards are blocking you every play, but he was still able to dominate the line of scrimmage and open things up for everyone else,” coach Snodgrass said. “And he did that in the state finals playing on a sprained ankle.
“We’re not going to know how good Masry really was this season until next year when he’s gone and we try playing without him,” the coach added. “He did what we asked him to do incredibly well.”
Mapieu admitted he got frustrated at times this season.
“I’d look at my tackle stats and I had 58 this year compared to 78 last year, and I felt like I was a better player this season than last,” Mapieu said. “Our linebackers got a lot of tackles, though, and that was a good thing.”
Mapieu said he has not yet met the NCAA academic requirements, but indicates he is on course to become eligible and sign his national letter of intent with NU in February.