Crisp fall Friday nights. Stadium lights illuminating grass fields. Gleaming goalposts, screaming fans, marching bands! All this brings to mind the excitement of the high school football season. We remember our favorite games—the ones we won, the ones we lost, the ones we tied. We also remember special coaches and players. One such player remembered by many is Rod Luplow.
Luplow was a football standout at former St. Andrew’s (first 2 years) and St. Stephen’s High Schools, where he earned 3 varsity letters and was awarded first team all-state football honors his senior year, 1971. He was recruited by Eastern Michigan University to play offensive guard on the Huron football team. Luplow went on to become a co-captain of the team in 1975 and was named the winner of the Elton J. Rynearson award as the top scholar athlete on the 1975 EMU football team.
Weighing in at around 250 pounds and standing 6 feet tall, Luplow was a powerhouse. According to Saginaw attorney, Greg Meter, Rod’s close friend and St. Stephen’s teammate, “Rod and I would work out Monday through Friday every week, each summer, from late April to early August, in preparation for our upcoming college football seasons; Rod at Eastern Michigan and myself at the University of Dayton.”
Then tragedy struck during the fall of Rod’s junior year at EMU. According to Meter, “A routine X-ray revealed Rod had Hodgkin’s disease, which required surgery and intensive chemotherapy and cobalt treatment.” Luplow dropped 50 pounds and lost his speed and endurance. However, he fought back. He pushed himself, never gave up, and inspired all those around him.
Despite the setback, Luplow returned to play his junior and senior years as a starter and co-captain of the Huron football team. After graduation from EMU, Luplow became a teacher and coach. He later moved to Florida and became a successful businessman, selling insurance. He married and had 2 sons.
In 1988, significant scaring from the Hodgkins treatment required Rod to undergo surgery. According to Meter, Rod, always a fighter, was up and walking after the procedure. Yet, a blood clot formed, and when Rod went to sleep that night, he would never awake. Meter still feels the deep loss of his former friend, teammate, and one of the best people he has ever known. He adds,
“One of the many memories I have about Rod was that, despite the challenges he faced, he never complained or felt sorry for himself. What I watched him go through has impacted my life since.”
Those who knew and loved Rod wanted to keep alive the memory of this champion on and off the field, and so the Rod Luplow Scholarship was established. Meter says they sold chicken dinners out of the Expressway Bar each summer to raise most of the funds for the Luplow Scholarship, which has been awarded to a Nouvel Catholic Central (NCC) senior/seniors each year since the early 1990s. Criteria for this scholarship are the following: Student must be admitted to and enrolled in a college or university; must have a minimum 3.0 grade point average for all four years of high school; must have participated in the high school football program; must show financial need; and must demonstrate the elements of character, leadership, and determination. In addition, there is a preference for high school football players who go on to play college football.
The NCC 2020 winners of the Rod Luplow Scholarship are Kieran Schultz and Zaiden Mitchell.
Schultz played 3 years for the NCC varsity football team. He excelled as right tackle for the Panthers and also served as captain. Kieran says one of his favorite memories was playing in the 2017 State Football Championship game with his brother, Collin, a right guard. Kieran will attend Saginaw Valley State University this fall, and will also be playing football for the Cardinals.
Schultz says he is inspired by the story of Rod Luplow’s life, the way Rod kept fighting and never gave up.
“I know that when life or football gets tough, I will remember the challenges Rod faced and keep going.”
Schultz plans to study mechanical engineering at SVSU and his goals include doing well in football—maybe even being part of a national championship team—and eventually getting a master’s degree.
Zaiden Mitchell, Nouvel Catholic Central stand-out athlete and Rod Luplow Scholarship winner, signed to play football at Lawrence Tech this year.
The Catholic Community Foundation of Mid-Michigan (CCFMM) is proud of its role in keeping alive the memory of a man, Rod Luplow, who was an inspiration on and off the football field. In addition to administering the Rod Luplow Scholarship, the CCFMM has over 250 funds, endowed, scholarship, grants and donor advised, that serve the Diocese of Saginaw. Many of the CCFMM funds, such as the Luplow Scholarship, have been established in memory of a loved one.