Of the countless lessons Mike Knapic learned at The College of Wooster, one of the most memorable occurred midway through his junior year when he was replaced as the football team’s starting quarterback. Despite guiding the Scots to a 3-2 record through the first five games of the 1989 season, he lost his job to an underclassman.
“Up to that point, I based my personal self-worth on everything I did on the football field,” said Knapic, who majored in biology. “When I got benched, I realized that I was more than just a football player. Ultimately, I was affected in a very positive way. That negative experience shaped me and taught me how to address difficult and challenging situations.” The following season, Knapic showed his mettle by switching to defense, where he earned a starting spot in the secondary and was selected as team captain.
Today, almost 20 years after his last collegiate game, Knapic is still calling signals. After graduating from Wooster, Knapic was accepted into Ohio University’s School of Medicine, where he became a Doctor of Osteopathy. He returned to Wooster in 2000 as a partner of Wooster Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, where he and his colleagues work out of a fabulous new facility about three miles north of campus.
“Getting back to Wooster meant a lot to me,” said Knapic. “I wanted to take care of the people who took care of me.”
And he has certainly done that. During the past nine-plus years, Knapic estimates that he has treated or operated on hundreds of students, faculty, and staff from the College, including two of his former professors.
Knapic’s decision to attend Wooster ran counter to his parents’ wishes. “I had been accepted at Amherst and Williams, and my parents thought it would be good for me to get away,” said Knapic, “but I wanted to go to Wooster because it always felt right to me. I had taken AP calculus as a senior in high school, so I was on campus three days a week, and I really liked the combination of forward-thinking people and excellent academics in a setting that suited my personality.” He had also been recruited to play football by head coach Bob Tucker, so he decided to stay close to home.
Knapic knew he would pursue one of the sciences at Wooster, and after a semester of organic chemistry, he decided that biology would suit him best. He contemplated becoming a biology teacher and coaching football, but ultimately he decided to work toward a career in the medical profession.
Wooster provided an excellent foundation for medical school, according to Knapic. “I learned to think critically and to think for myself,” he said. “Wooster prepared me to take a set of information and learn it in my own way.”
Knapic also benefited from the undergraduate research opportunities at Wooster. He conducted research with Professor Michael Kern, and co-authored two journal articles with him. He also did his senior Independent Study project with Dr. Kern, which further prepared him for medical school. “The beauty of I.S. is not the topic but the process,” said Knapic, whose father was a family practitioner in nearby Rittman for 27 years.
After graduating from Wooster, Knapic was confident in his skill set, but he was somewhat concerned about the competition in medical school. “At first, I was intimidated because I was with students from larger schools who were used to taking long multiple-choice tests,” he said. “I didn’t learn that way at Wooster, and I was worried that I would have trouble adjusting, but the opposite was true. I was prepared to assimilate the information and exhibit knowledge without a lot of help. In short, I had learned how to learn.”
And he’s never stopped learning. A self-described “serial” reader, Knapic says if he is awake, he probably has his nose in a book.
After graduation, Knapic knew that he wanted to return to Wayne County, so he placed a phone call to Dr. James Gesler of Wooster Orthopedics to see if there were any positions available. Gesler, who was both impressed and amused by Knapic’s take-charge approach, invited him to join the staff. Almost a decade later, Knapic has a thriving practice that includes 12-15 surgeries per week.
Outside of his medical practice, Knapic is happily married to his nursery school sweetheart, Debbie (Chipps), whom he met at the tender age of 4. The couple has three children. In their spare time, the family raises and shows Arabian horses, and this past year, both Knapic and his wife won national championships in the category of “Western Pleasure.”
He also plays in a rock band with other physicians and medical professionals, and he remains heavily involved in the sport he loves most, serving as the team doctor for Wooster High School and The College of Wooster. In addition, he coaches his son’s youth football team. “In the fall, I’m on the sidelines Friday night, Saturday morning, and Saturday afternoon,” he said. And he wouldn’t want it any other way.
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