Professional pilot. Professional NASCAR driver. Professional wrestler. Next stop, attorney at law.
Michael Senica's career reads more like a bucket list than a résumé.
Having led an exceedingly colorful and eclectic life, Senica, 51, of Warrington, opted to return to the classroom with the goal of becoming an advocate for others. It's how he discovered Temple's Adult and Organizational Development (AOD) program and why he has decided his next profession will be inside a courtroom.
"Racing and flying took a lot of perseverance and a lot of personal sacrifice. Those experiences grounded me and made me a better student — I know that in order to be successful you have to be driven, you have attack it and have a passion for the goal you're pursuing," said Senica, who will graduate with a degree in Adult and Organizational Development in August. "My interest is in aviation law and sports law. Pilots in particular need an advocate; they need a voice."
This isn't Senica's first lap at Temple. But, as John Lennon so sagely sang, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
"I came to Temple in 1988 as a Psychology major but didn't complete my degree at the time. Even after all of these years, most of my credits from back then still counted," he said. "I had always had an interest in flying and discovered the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida. Being a professional airline pilot is my day job now; I've been additionally flying corporate aircraft for about 25 years. I've also been an instructor for about 8 years at the Penn Flight School in Perkasie."
Senica's love of flying branched out over time into a love of flying around the racetrack. While running a plane detailing business, he made a key connection that had him racing in the Barber Saab Pro Series (think scaled down Indy cars) not long after.
"I got into stock cars from there and went to a couple of racing schools, learning how to drive the heavier cars. I received my national competition license in 2005 and began racing in the ARCA racing series, which is one step below from NASCAR — in 2016 I was among the top 20 in national points in ARCA," he said. "I made my first big step up into NASCAR in 2015 with the NASCAR K&N series, then my first start in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series was the Iowa 200 in 2017 — I had 10 starts last year and I'm continuing to race this year."
While in the car — which clocks speeds regularly above 180 mph — "you are completely concentrated and fixated on your driving," said Senica, who also operates his own sports marketing business.
"You don't think about anything else. You can't see anything else — the crowd is just a blur of colors as you go by. I belong to a racing team called Copp Motorsports, a great group with big heart," he said. "It's all been an amazing experience. My goal is simply to keep progressing and continue to build my comfort level behind the wheel."
While in the air and on the ground, Senica was also earning a reputation for himself in the wrestling ring.
"After 9/11, commercial pilots were finding it harder to find jobs — there simply weren't as many flights at the time. I was in the gym one day and this one guy, Ron 'Sweet' Taboo, tells me I have the right build to become a wrestler," he said with a laugh. "I decided, why not. I went and tried out at this place in South Jersey called The Monster Factory owned by Larry Sharpe. That's where my training began."
That's not where it ended, however. According to Senica, The Monster Factory shut its doors and he was sent off to continue training at a school in Allentown.
"I find the place in this back alley and I have no idea what I'm getting myself into. I'm met in the hallway by this very large figure who said 'Can I help you son?'" he recalled. "That turned out to be Afa Anoa'i, who, with his brother Sika, had been part of a very successful wrestling tag team the Wild Samoans. It was there that I learned everything about taking bumps and crowd psychology."
Senica also received his wrestling name — Mike Flyte — from the unlikeliest of people.
"Afa Anoa'i is Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson's uncle. When I came to the school, he happened to be in the ring training some of the new wrestlers," he said. "After learning that I was a pilot, The Rock gave me my name; he thought that would be a good gimmick for me. I was a heel, a villain in the ring and I could work the stick — the mic — very well. I was a very believable bad guy."
With all of these wild and varied life experiences under his belt, Senica said he still had a personal goal to complete.
"I came to Temple University Ambler in 2015 to fulfill a vision. I want to become a lawyer and the depth and breadth of the AOD program was a great step toward accomplishing that goal," he said. "Temple has been exceptionally accommodating; I've never felt like I didn't belong here and I've had a wonderful education. I think I'm coming out of Temple a more well-rounded person who's ready to use the degree I've worked so hard for to the best of my ability."