Photo by Charlie Quigg '09

Football's' senior quad-captain Mike Salerno, is also the undisputed fan favorite of the men's basketball team.

Mike Salerno, The Lord of Jeff Nation
By Alex Kantor

November 8, 2006

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my pleasure to introduce to you, for the first time, the President of Lord Jeff Nation, Mike Salerno.

Salerno was born and raised in Shrewsbury, Mass. and attended St. John’s Prep before coming to Amherst College. He was a standout athlete in high school, playing football, basketball and baseball, also finding time in the off-season to take up boxing. Salerno is a senior quad-captain on both the football and basketball teams at Amherst, and through the first six weeks of football, he is leading the team in tackles with 39 and fumbles recovered with two.

Salerno arrived at Amherst in the fall of 2003, bright eyed at the idea that he would someday lead a team with such an emphasis on defense. During his first season with the Lord Jeffs, Salerno played in only a handful of games, and served as a reserve defensive back and kick-returner. The next season Salerno played in all eight games, and made an interception in a 38-3 blowout of Little Three rival Wesleyan.

Last season Salerno finished ranked third on the team in tackles (51) and was elected team captain by his peers. “To be named captain of this team by my peers is a great honor,” explains Salerno. “Any one of my fellow classmates could have been put in my place and would have done a great job.”

Salerno is in the rare position of leading two of the school’s most storied programs, and playing under two legendary coaches. Both E.J. Mills, head football coach, and David Hixon ’75, head basketball coach, always saw the natural leadership ability of Salerno. While Salerno did not see much playing time during his first year with either team, Hixon recalls “both E.J. and I predicted he would be captain by his senior year.”

Both coaches agree that Salerno brings something extra to the table, and has certain leadership qualities that a make a captain great, and both quote Salerno as being an extraordinarily hard worker. Hixon explains that “Salerno wasn’t recruited heavily out of high school even though he was the starting point guard on a state championship team. He goes out and works hard, and really leads by example.”

“As a competitor, you see he’s tough mentally, and people just respond to him because he has a way about him,” says Mills. “He commands respect from his peers by approaching things the right way, with hard work.”

There is one question that Mills says he always uses when talking about players. “Can I trust you? There is no one I have ever trusted more than Mike. He is the coach on the field, makes all the calls, and all the checks. He really is the quarterback of our defense,” adds Mills.

Not only is Salerno a hard worker and a great player, he has great relationships with his teammates. Mills explains that “on a football team of 75 guys, you aren’t going to be best friends with everyone, but Salerno connects with everyone on the team on some level. He goes out everyday and leads this team with his attitude.”

Leading by example is something that you hear over and over again about Salerno. Senior outside linebacker Greg Muecke has played with Salerno on the defense for four seasons and says he “has great energy and just has a way of uniting the different groups on the team. There aren’t cliques on this team, but in football you don’t always practice as one whole team, and Mike really brings us all together at the right times.”

While Salerno is a captain of the basketball team, he is hindered each year in playing time because his last football game is less than one week from the basketball season opener. Salerno may not lead the basketball team in many statistical categories, but he is undeniably the fan favorite. Salerno is the unofficial leader of Lord Jeff Nation, a student body fan group that Salerno and his father, Tony, introduced two weeks ago at the Tufts football game.

The Salernos have designed t-shirts and banners with new logos, in hopes that they will be able to unite the Amherst student body at home and road sporting events, giving them a sense of the team concept that Salerno has lived his whole life. 

When asking Mike about what it means for his father to be so involved in his time at Amherst, you can immediately see where Mike gets his work ethic. “My parents are the most influential people in my life. As a senior in college I have come to realize just how much they have shaped and molded me into the person I am today.” Salerno adds that his father used to tell him, “There are certain things in life you cannot control. You may not be the strongest, you may not be the fastest or tallest or biggest kid, but you can make sure that no one out-works you.”

Salerno says that he always keeps that in mind when he is training, and tries to imagine that someone, somewhere, was working harder than him. That pushes him everyday.

Off the field, Salerno is a political science major with an interest in law. He has spent his summers working as a clerk in the 316 Law Group, when not coaching at sports camps or working as an assistant strength and conditioning coach at Holy Cross. After graduation Salerno has not ruled out the possibility of playing football in Austria or Germany, but wants to return to the U.S. for law school.

There is one thing that is for sure: no matter what Salerno does after Amherst, he will work hard wherever he is, and will motivate others to follow, because he does not know how to live any other way.