High school kids looking for laid back, low-stress summer jobs don’t often find themselves crouched on rooftops laying shingles.
Such is life for Crookston’s Mark Bittner, who always seems to be pushing himself to new heights.
“Good pay, good hours,” Bittner says with a grin about his work as a roofer.
Life only got more difficult this fall for Bittner, whose work now includes playing most every down for Crookston’s football team on Friday nights and then, after a couple hours of sleep, dragging himself out of bed early on Saturday mornings to play in Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League games.
As a defenseman for Great Plains, Bittner has played a rock steady stay-at-home style that contrasts his high-scoring run-throw-run exploits as the Pirates’ quarterback.
We caught up with Bittner after an Elite League game and asked him how his body is holding up, which sport he would like to play in college and how to kill time (other than by playing hockey) in Crookston in the winter.
Question: You’ve been playing football on Friday nights and Elite League games on Saturday mornings this fall. What kind of toll has that been taking on your body?
Answer: It’s tough, but I did it last year. I know how to work through it this year.
Q: You’re the quarterback, (backup) punter, kick-off specialist and holder for extra points. Do you ever come of the field?
A: Yeah, I come off for kick return and punt return. But that’s about it.
Q: Do you play defense as well?
Q: What position do you play?
Q: Your younger brother, Ryan, is the Pirates’ long snapper. That’s a key position for a punter. Do you have to be extra nice to him during football season so he doesn’t snap it over your head?
A: No, because I’m the backup.
Q: Do you ever crack jokes in the huddle, or do you keep it pretty serious?
A: I crack jokes every now and then, but I usually keep it serious.
Q: Jon Bitter, your dad, is Crookston’s hockey coach. Does that put added pressure on you to play well?
A: No. It helps me play better.
Q: Crookston has a new arena with three sheets of indoor ice. Can you go there and play anytime you want?
A: Yeah. It’s great.
Q: What else is there to do in Crookston in the winter besides play hockey?
A: Play football in the gymnasium. And boot hockey is a key thing.
Q: Big hits are a staple in the hockey rivalry between Crookston and East Grand Forks. Why do you think those games are so physical?
A: I think just the specators like to see the big hits, so we like to bring it against East Grand Forks.
Q: Are you hoping to play hockey or football or both in college?
A: I want to try for both. But hockey would be great, I would love to play hockey.
Q: What have you learned by playing in the Elite League?
A: Be physical. Be 120 percent every shift no matter what.
Q: How do you stay busy in the summer?
A: I work. I shingle for a carpenter. I love it. Good hours, good pay.
Q: Name something about you that most people don’t know?
A: I’m a quiet guy. I like to be private. I don’t go out very much.
Q: Favorite subject in school?
A: Social studies.
A: Because my dad teaches it and I’m good at it.
Upper Midwest High School Elite League team: Great Plains
Weight: 176 pounds
Credentials: Last season Bittner was Crookston's second-leading scorer with seven goals and 16 assists in 27 games. As the Pirates quarterback this fall, he rushed for 1,052 yards and 14 touchdowns and passed for 962 yards and eight touchdowns in eight regular season games. This fall in the Elite League, he has two assists as a mainstay on the Great Plains blueline.
College committment: None. Bittner says he has heard from Bemidji State and several Division III schools, including Gustavus Adolphus.
Favorite hockey movie between Miracle, Slapshot and Youngblood? Slapshot
Favorite home-cooked meal? Pizza
Fast food addiction? McDonald’s
Coke or Pepsi? Coke
Taco John’s or Taco Bell? Taco John’s
Cowboy boots or flip flops? Flip flops
Trophy walleye or trophy buck? Trophy buck
Chris Pronger, Duncan Keith? Chris Pronger
Tom Brady or Peyton Manning? Tom Brady
Drums or electric guitar? Electric guitar
Favorite song in your iPod? I don’t have one
Last book you read? I don’t know
TV show you just can’t miss: CSI: Las Vegas
Dream car: Camaro
Must-see foreign destination: Fiji