Michael Steven Shapiro seemed a master of details.
He was an avid golfer so he made his own golf clubs.
“He was just extremely intelligent and could do it better than you could buy them,” his wife Beverly said.
Shapiro, best known in South Miami-Dade circles as “Coach,” taught football for 39 years at Miami Killian Senior High, Homestead Senior High and Miami Southridge Senior High School.
“He never played football but he was an outstanding coach — he taught himself,” Beverly Shapiro said.
Shapiro, who died Feb. 1 at 67 of lung cancer in Cutler Bay, had an outsized passion: helping children. Among the NFL players he helped turn out in four decades of high school coaching: Southridge’s Steve Everitt, 45, of the Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles and Willis Peguese, 49, of the Houston Oilers and Indianapolis Colts. He tutored Frank Gore, 32, of the San Francisco 49ers and Indianapolis Colts.
Not all of his football success stories played for the three schools he coached. Gore, for instance, was a Coral Gables High graduate. Other coaches and teachers sought Shapiro to help their athletes pass the SATs as well as LSAT for law school and the MCAT for medical school admissions.
Shapiro, who also taught English and Latin classes during his coaching career, conducted workshops to help students get through those standardized tests.
“He was contacted by schools all through Florida and they’d have him do these workshops. He’d even get phone calls from coaches from around the U.S. that had heard of him and told him of an athlete who couldn’t pass and they’d fly Mike out there,” his wife said.
In 1994, Southridge High opened a computer lab with special software designed to help students who had fallen behind or were not earning enough credits to graduate. Shapiro was one of two teachers chosen to teach 180 freshman in the lab that year.
The atmosphere was informal, but the kids weren’t slacking. Shapiro saw to that.
“These are not dumb kids,” Shapiro told the Miami Herald at the time. “They just learn in different ways and they are much more visual. This helps them get reoriented and then we don’t lose them later on.”
Shapiro was born July, 10, 1948, in Queens, New York, and moved to Miami in the mid-1960s, where he later met his wife Beverly, a former special ed teacher. The two married in 1979 when he was at Homestead. He spent the majority of his career at Southridge until retiring in 2010.
He was an example of how a man should live his life.
Beverly Shapiro on her husband Michael Shapiro.
“Mr Tough Love will forever be remembered by us, his students that some way or another were impacted by his teaching,” Carlos Mario Gonzalez posted on Facebook.
“He never strayed from what he believed in and that is a quality that is tough to find,” his son Zack Shapiro said. “He really, truly loved helping the kids grow up. We grew up hearing the success stories about the guys that came from nothing and made something of themselves, not only because of him but their own willpower. We were always around the school with the players and those were guys we idolized as kids.”
Zack, 32, who played football, soccer and water polo at Southridge, also had his father for a golf coach. He, too, marveled at his dad’s ingenuity in building his own clubs. The senior Shapiro videotaped himself so he could study his form.
“He put in the time. Whatever he wanted to do, he researched extensively,” Zack said, commenting on what he saw later on those videotaped self-studies: “If I pull my right arm up three inches…”
“He was very meticulous,” his son said. He made his own clubs because he could tailor them for his height and build to get the best swing speed.
Added his wife: “How much he adored his grandchildren. The other day, she said, Aiden’s teacher sent home a picture the 5-year-old drew during free time of his “Hawpaw” — his name for his grandfather. The picture depicted a tall man with an “H” for Hawpaw and the words, “I love you” and “I’m so sad.”
“He’s still processing,” Beverly Shapiro said. The other night, grandma gave him one of Shapiro’s soft blankets to help him keep his grandfather near. “He got the biggest smile.”
In addition to his wife and son, Shapiro is survived by his daughter Amanda, her partner Daniel and his daughter Brie; daughter-in-law Jennifer and grandchildren Aiden and Tyler; and sister Judy. Services were held. Donations can be made to St. Jude Children’s Research or the ASPCA.