Where are they now?
From 1997 to 2000, Thunder football was coming into its own as an NAIA contender. One of the key members of the blue machine was defensive back Otto Shragal. He was a formidable foe and a feared defender.
Dale Carlson was Thunder head coach at the time, and remembers Otto′s contagious spirit well. "He was selfless in his play and a tremendous leader. He had a never–say–die attitude that contributed to our tremendous success, and was a leader of one of the best defenses in school history," Carlson said.
Almost 10 years later, Shragal′s still playing the role of defender. The 2001 TSU grad is an associate for the Chicago–area law firm Cassiday Schade LLP, specializing in medical malpractice, product liability, and construction litigation. "I represent everyone from the mom and pop store to large corporations," he said. "Everyone needs good representation."
Before he learned to battle at the bench, he was battling on the gridiron. He believes the athletic competition, academic environment, and personal attention from a caring faculty propelled him to a successful legal career.
"The university taught me a lot of things. I was a guy who was an average student in high school and relied on sports to get me by. In college I didn′t have that luxury. When you first enroll, you really have no idea what it means to be in college and what it takes to survive and learn," he said.
He credits small class sizes and the Socratic teaching method with providing him with a solid foundation in the legal system and life. "Today, I feel totally prepared on every level," he said. He had opportunities to attend other schools and play at higher levels, but knows he made the right choice.
"Trine University is one of the highest academic schools in the state of Indiana. I came out of there knowing I had a better education than almost anyone from a state school. You learned from professors and educators who knew their material and what they were doing, not from a teaching assistant′s lecture notes," he said.
He graduated with a 3.5 grade point average and later graduated cum laude with a Juris Doctor from Chicago′s prestigious John Marshall Law School in 2005.
Academics gave him the understanding; it was athletic competition that taught him hard work, preparation and discipline as a professional and as a co–worker. "You have legal teams that work together. In order to defend clients at our level, you have to be a team. I can′t do it all myself. As in sports, we have to trust each other."
Game day and the courtroom share another similarity for Shragal. "When you are preparing for a trial you feel like you′re preparing for a football game. Nowhere else have I felt the same nerves and uncertain energy. As in football, once you get in the courtroom, the butterflies quickly go away."
On a personal note, he resides in Valparaiso, Ind. with his wife, Sara, also a 2001 graduate of TSU. He makes it back to Steuben County frequently to visit family and friends. He′s still involved in football, broadcasting high school games in northwest Indiana for Regional Radio Sports Network.