John Shigo has played in big football games before.
As a three-time All-American linebacker at Lehigh in the early 1980s, Shigo played in one of the area's biggest football games every year — the one that featured his Engineers against Lafayette.
But on Saturday, Shigo will get to officiate in the biggest game of his life.
He will be part of the crew that will work the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) national championship game between North Dakota State and Sam Houston State at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas.
Shigo will serve as the umpire for the game.
It will be the 1980 Freedom High School graduate's sixth FCS playoff game, but easily the biggest assignment of an officiating career that began in 1992.
Earlier in the FCS tournament, Shigo was part of a crew that worked the Sam Houston State-Montana State quarterfinal and he was selected for this gig based on certain criteria that ranks officials.
"It's a thrill, but I have a ton of people to thank for this opportunity," the 49-year-old Shigo said. "The Glenn Rissmillers, the Mike Sechrists, the Frank D'Angelos, the Ricky Gargers … a lot of us kind of started together. They have all been supportive and were happy for me when I got this call. They're great friends. I feel like I am representing all of them … guys like Chuck Frantz, Bobby Andrews, Jim Haney and the late Tommy Partridge, who were instrumental in my starting out in this profession."
Shigo, who is a sales rep and consultant for Banko Beverage, said he's still a proud member of the Eastern Pennsylvania Football Officials Association, which works all of the area's high school games.
"I have great respect for the guys in our chapter and I still try to help out the younger guys," Shigo said. "We're still a tight-knit crew and I'd be as happy as hell if any of those guys received the same type of assignment."
Shigo, who also worked the prestigious Harvard-Yale game in November, also thanked Jim Maconaghy, the officials assignor for the CIP (Colonial Athletic Association, Ivy League, Patriot League) association, which handles most of the FCS-level games on the East Coast. He also thanked the members of the officiating crew he worked with all season.
"They're all good guys and great officials and anyone of them could have been selected for this," Shigo said.
The main reason that Shigo hasn't been selected to officiate in the FCS title game before is because CIP officials can't officiate games involving teams from their own leagues and the CAA has had a representative in the FCS title game for five consecutive years and seven times in the last eight seasons.
It looked for a while like maybe Shigo's alma mater might make it to Frisco, but Lehigh lost to North Dakota State on Dec. 10 in the FCS quarterfinals.
Lehigh coach Andy Coen and quarterback Chris Lum will still be in Frisco to attend the awards banquet on Friday night.
Shigo, who now lives in Blandon, said he will fly to Texas on Thursday afternoon and attend a pre-championship press conference on Friday morning and some other pregame functions.
A member of Lehigh Hall of Fame, Shigo said that having played middle linebacker as a player has helped him become a better umpire because he is stationed pre-snap in the heart of the defense.
He also will be as pumped up for this game as he was for some of his big games at Freedom and Lehigh.
"When they start playing the national anthem, I will be up on my toes and ready to go," Shigo said. "It's a different kind of emotion than what you had as a player. But the adrenaline is going, the energy level is accelerated and you can't wait for that first whistle. No, I won't have my fist in the air like when I was a player, but you can bet I will be excited."
KEEPING IN TOUCH
•Central Catholic's record-breaking receiver Kevin Gulyas was named EasternPAfootball.com's Big School offensive player of the year. By now, you should know that The Morning Call's player of the year had 122 catches for 2,031 yards and 27 touchdowns and finished her career with a staggering 247 receptions for 4,201 yards and 54 scores.
•Louisville senior swimmer Clayton Coleman (Central Catholic) has helped the Cardinals become the No. 11-ranked men's team in the country. Coleman, who transferred from St. Bonaventure, participates in the 50-free, 100-fly, 200-free, 100-fly and on relay teams.
•Centenary College junior Max Hughes (Notre Dame) had a team-high 18 points with two assists and a rebound while going 8-for-8 at the foul line in a 86-77 win over The College of New Jersey last week. Hughes is averaging 12.4 ppg and has a team-high 23 3-pointers for 6-6 Centenary.