In his locker, several photos of an offensive left tackle are on display for Steve Michaelsen to see. The biggest is a high school magazine cover of Kyle Murphy, whose job Friday night is to keep Michaelsen off the quarterback.
Michaelsen isn’t the one who hung up all the pictures of Murphy. Newport Harbor defensive line coach Danny Pulido put them up at the start of the week.
At first, Michaelsen laughed to himself when he first saw the San Clemente senior in his locker. Pulido finds ways to push Michaelsen, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound defensive end.
The scouting report on Murphy is also in the locker. From just looking at the photos, Michaelsen quickly figured out that Murphy is bigger than he is.
“He’s going to be a really good test to see if I’m ready for the next level because he has [college] offers [everywhere],” Michaelsen said of Murphy, who is two inches taller and 35 pounds heavier than Michaelsen. “He can go to any school he wants to, really.
“I don’t think the defensive ends he’s gone against have really done much or tried to do much against him. It’s hard to see what’s worked against him, but that might be just because he’s so good.”
Michaelsen knows he will have to be much better this week against San Clemente (4-0), ranked No. 4 in the CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division, than he was last week.
Topping last week’s performance will be hard to do.
The senior turned in almost a perfect outing in crunch time, the fourth quarter against Corona del Mar in the Battle of the Bay. Michaelsen used his sheer hands to grab the Sailors’ first win of the year, a 29-26 come-from-behind victory on the road.
As a tight end, he caught the game-winning touchdown with 2:48 left to play. Two minutes later, he sealed the deal, recording his second sack. In his gut, with CdM facing a fourth-and-26, he felt it was over.
The butterflies he had in his stomach when the Sailors decided to go to him for a touchdown on third-and-goal on CdM’s five-yard line were long gone. For his first varsity touchdown, Michaelsen hooked up with quarterback Cole Blower.
The touchdown was a big deal on the scoreboard, but it meant much more to Michaelsen because of who threw it. Michaelsen and Blower have been friends since kindergarten.
They grew closer two years later in second grade, when Michaelsen’s father, Aaron, passed away from a heart attack. The death was hard for Michaelsen to comprehend.
“When you’re that young you don’t really understand things like that,” Michaelsen said, “but you start to pick it up when you get older.”
As he grew, Michaelsen said Blower’s father, Mike, became a father figure.
They would go on fishing trips and Michaelsen and Blower would have sleepovers. Michaelsen had another man, beside his grandfather, Steve Sholkoff, to turn to for help.
The death of Michaelsen’s father allowed him to get closer to his mom, Anne, and his grandpa and grandma, Miki. He said he owes them everything.
“They’ve been supportive all the way through,” Michaelsen said of his grandparents. “When my mom was working and she couldn’t come home until late sometimes, we’d have dinner at their house.”
Just the other night, Michaelsen had dinner with his grandparents at a food truck in Irvine. He enjoys spending time with them.
In the coming years, Michaelsen might not be able to have dinner as often with his grandparents. Michaelsen plans to leave the area to play college football after he graduates from high school.
Army and Air Force have each offered him the opportunity to continue playing. Washington, Oregon, Colorado and UCLA are interested in Michaelsen as well.
Whenever Michaelsen visits campuses, his mother is always there with him. Anne always likes to point out one thing to her son.
“I’m really proud of you and everything that you’ve accomplished,” Michaelsen said his mother tells him.
Born: April 14, 1994
Hometown: Newport Beach
Weight: 240 pounds
Position: Defensive end and tight end
Coach: Jeff Brinkley
Favorite food: His mom Anne’s spaghetti
Favorite movie: “Zoolander”
Favorite athletic moment: “Winning the Battle of the Bay and getting the game-winning touchdown.”
Week in review: Michaelsen caught the game-winning touchdown and recorded two sacks in the fourth quarter to lead Newport Harbor to a 29-26 come-from-behind win against Corona del Mar in the Battle of the Bay.