Many would call playing an extra on a TV show, whose leading actor could snap a person in two like a twig, a life highlight.
For UMHB’s Professor Emeritus of English, Dr. George Musacchio, standing in the presence of the man who changed his life seemed all the sweeter as he performed scenes with the skillful karate artist and actor Chuck Norris.
The 1990s hit TV series, Walker, Texas Ranger, presented Norris expertise as a martial artist, which motivated numerous viewers to engage in forms of karate and seek better health practices.
Musacchio, one of those viewers, became a fan of Norris’ and one day stumbled across the fact stating Norris was only a year younger than himself. This lit a fire, and Musachhio said to himself, ‘If he can do this, then so can I.’
He began intensifying his workouts by adding more running and a weight program.
When in better shape, Musacchio enrolled in a local karate class.
“It was interesting and different,” he said.
He recalls a young man there who teased him about his age and at one point told him to hire a bodyguard.
After three years of training, Musacchio, 60 at the time, moved up the tae kwo do levels and finally tested for his black belt. He received it on his first try, whereas the teasing young man did not.
He looks back and said, “The experience gave me more confidence.”
Musacchio no longer takes karate classes, but continues his exercise workouts. He said staying healthy is a priority in his life. He also believes his efforts to stay in shape truly makes a difference.
Finding out Musacchio, a nationally recognized scholar on C.S. Lewis and Milton, has such an active past surprises people who have known him for years.
Several colleagues never knew of his martial arts abilities, and some said they just thought he was really limber for a man of his age.
English professor, Dr. Sarah Brown, said she recalls an encounter with Musacchio during which he kicked a door to open it.
“I was behind him, and he did not know anyone was there,” she said. “When he came to the door, I expected him to reach down and push the crash bar, but, instead, his right leg came up, hit that crash bar and he started through the door. I started laughing, and he turned around and grinned and said ‘keeps me in shape’ then kept going just as if it were the most natural thing to do.”
At the time, Brown did not know about Musacchio’s experience with precision kicking.
Musacchio, who taught at UMHB for 15 years and retired in 2004, continued his pursuit of a healthy mind in a healthy body, as he still admired the one who started it all for him.
Because of Norris’ influence, Musacchio wanted to share his inspirational story with others through writing.
While trying to arrange an interview with Norris, he found an application to work as an extra on Norris’ show.
He signed up, and then, while still teaching at UMHB, had the chance to appear on the show three times, an experience he will never forget.
Recently, Musacchio wrote about his entire Norris experience from start until now. The article, titled “How Chuck Norris Saved My (Red) Neck,” is published in the March 2009 issue of Black Belt Magazine.
In the article, he writes about his admiration for Norris as more than a martial artist.
In an interview, Musacchio said he appreciates the actor’s Christian values, integrity and fairness as well as the way he has chosen to stay fit.
Just as Musacchio admires Norris, others recognize him in the same way.
English Professor Sharon Ganslen said, “(Musacchio) is humble in the sight of God. He knows he is (a literary) expert, and he wants to share that knowledge. Like his understanding of C.S. Lewis, he thinks to be what God wants you to be … includes your physicality and your intellect as a balanced person.”