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Alumni source for Grisham book, “Playing for Pizza”

Andrew Papoccia

John Grisham’s book, “Playing for Pizza,” is based on a real-life American football team in Italy, the Parma Panthers.  When Grisham was researching the book, he went to Parma, watched a game and met with Coach Andrew Papoccia, a ’05 kinesiology and recreation graduate of Illinois State University.  Grisham found him “extremely valuable” for his research.

Papoccia said he played for the Panthers prior to becoming coach, with at least four other American players including two more Illinois State alums, Mike Souza ’05 and Tyler Larick ’05.  The seasons run from April through July, and Papoccia said he definitely will be recruiting more Redbirds for the Parma Panthers in the upcoming years.

“Our team being featured in the Grisham book—it is still all a bit strange,” said Papoccia.  “In a country dominated by soccer fans, the book has shed some light on the team and American football in Europe.  Mike Souza and I shared a few meals with Grisham, discussing the book among other things.  He is a very intelligent man, very humble for what he has accomplished and fun to be around.  We exchanged e-mails and continue to stay in contact.  Grisham is planning a trip back to Parma for the start of our 2008 season.”

Papoccia said the Panthers are a team full of proud Italian players who feel honored to be known worldwide through Grisham’s book, which was released in Italy on November 6 of this year.