Freshman men’s tennis player Mike DePietro gets a lot of teasing from his teammates during practice, but it has nothing to do with his tennis skill. He has plenty of that.
Rather, they constantly kid him about his smile.
“The kid is always smiling, no matter what we are doing,” freshman Scott Bruckmann said with a laugh. “We could be doing an extremely tough fitness workout and you can look over and see Mike smiling during the middle of it. It’s quite comical.”
DePietro, however, is unapologetic about his ever-present grin.
“They tease me, and that makes me smile more,” DePietro said. “Honestly, I’m having a great time. It’s always been my dream to play tennis at Michigan, my favorite school. Now that I’m doing it, I’m really happy and always smiling.”
A Bloomfield Hills native, DePietro is the lone player on the team from Michigan. His dad had football season tickets and going with him to the games made him a huge football fan. His brother, who is seven years older than him, went to Michigan, which added to DePietro’s support for the school.
Although his early love for Michigan sports centered on football, being immersed in Wolverines athletics gave DePietro a head start on the expectations of being a Michigan tennis player.
“I personally take a great pride in representing Michigan as a hometown kid,” DePietro said. “The older kids understand it more than my fellow freshman, but there’s a great pride in representing Michigan. I understand the responsibility, the responsibility that comes with being an athlete in Michigan, from watching them growing up. Michigan strives for excellence at every sport and I grew up knowing that. Take pride in your individual sport and make it the best it can be.”
While the other freshmen may need a little more time to appreciate Michigan athletics, they are certainly grateful for DePietro’s Michigan roots for another reason.
“He took us home this weekend so we were able to get some home-cooked meals and were able to get away from college for a little bit,” Bruckmann said.
This weekend, DePietro and Bruckmann will play doubles together in Wilson/ITA Midwest Regional Championships.
“We’re looking to get as far in the tournament together as possible,” DePietro said. “We just want to work on being a better doubles team, working on our technique and our strategy. Hopefully that will result in success in the tournament.”
As usual, during the matches this weekend DePietro says he’ll be much more serious than in practice.
“I think there’s a difference between enjoying myself around the guys than in a match format,” DePietro said. “In a match format, it’s time for your game face. You can smile sometimes, but have to focus hard to win the match.”
Said Bruckmann: “You can definitely tell that he becomes much more competitive (during matches). He is very tough on the court. It’s like he turns into a different person once he steps foot on the court.”
But thinking further, Bruckmann admits DePietro’s cheerfulness does slip through a little bit during matches.
“Well, I wouldn’t say he completely covers up his personality once he starts a match. Throughout a match, he will manage to crack a few smiles,” Bruckmann said.
Playing for a school he grew up idolizing, who could blame him?