Gateway High School was ranked No. 1 in the state for most of 2009 and has been a primary stop for college recruiters. Seven Gateway seniors have received full football scholarships: Brendon Felder (North Carolina), Dayonne Nunley (Miami, Ohio), Orne Bey (Miami, Ohio), Omarr “Big O” Finn (Prairie View A&M), Shawn Brisker (Prairie View A&M), Delbert “The Hitman” Tyler (Hampton University) and Mitch DeVall (Seton Hill).
Prairie View A&M had a season to remember in 2009, as the Panthers went 9-1 overall and undefeated in the Southwest Athletic Conference (7-0). They won their first SWAC title since 1964. This year Prairie View A&M came to ‘Six-burgh’ for a couple more pieces to their championship puzzle, Finn and Brisker (Gateway).
|EYES OF STEEL— Tawayne Steele of Oliver is determined to get around Allderdice’s Ishmael Swain in the Bears 50-43 win on Feb. 16. Steele scored 10 points.
When Finn came to Gateway in eighth grade, playing organized football wasn’t on his radar. The 6-foot-3, 280-pound offensive and defensive lineman didn’t join the Gators football team until his junior year.
“Omarr has grown and developed quickly in those two years,” Gateway head coach Terry Smith said. “His upside is just tremendous. He will have a great career at Prairie View A&M. There’s a chance that he could play in the NFL!”
When you’re Cullen Christian (Penn Hills defensive back) there’s usually nowhere to hide. No chance of slipping under the radar. Never mind that opposing quarterbacks seek out your whereabouts before every snap. Christian cemented his place in WPIAL high school history by being selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and receiving a scholarship to the University of Michigan.
With Rose Bowl MVP quarterback Terrelle Pryor (Jeannette) returning to Ohio State, is second place the best Michigan can hope for in the Big Ten?
“No, no, no we almost beat them last year,” said Christian. “I’m looking forward to intercepting Pryor a couple of times.”
The Pitt Panthers signed six players from the WPIAL, including Clairton receiver Kevin Weatherspoon, Sto-Rox receiver Andrew Carswell, Woodland Hills defensive tackle Khaynin Mosley-Smith and Penn Hills duo, defensive tackle Aaron Donald and defensive back Brandon Ifill.
Penn State signed five players from the WPIAL led by “The Bionic-Man” Paul Jones. In two years at Sto-Rox, Jones has passed for over 4,000 yards and was ranked as the fifth best pro-style quarterback in the country. Jones graduated early and enrolled at Penn State in January.
“I wanted to get a jump start my college career. It didn’t take very long to get used to college life because the football team is like family at Penn State,” said Jones. “My goal is to win a Heisman Trophy and to win a national championship.”
At 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, Jones is known for his toughness.
“We come from a tough family. We are from the dirty south,” said Paul Jones Sr., the quarterback’s father. “We are from Southwestern Louisiana down where Ike Taylor (Steelers) went to college. Just throw some dirt on what hurts and go play ball.”
With a resume that includes 6’3 and 215 pounds with 4.4. speed, 700 yards receiving, 11 touchdowns, 80 tackles and 6 quarterback sacks all in 2009, an athlete like this should be a household name in his hometown. But the University of Wisconsin recruit and Brashear High School’s Manasseh Garner is relatively unknown.
He is comparable to the NFL’s fourth leading all-time rusher, Curtis Martin (Allderdice, Pitt, New England Patriots, New York Jets) in work ethic, talent and business like demeanor.
“I always played quarterback until I got into high school,” said Garner. “I was recruited to Wisconsin as an athlete. Receiver, H-Back and some college coaches were recruiting me to play linebacker.”
Brendon Felder went into the 2009 WPIAL season as almost a complete unknown. Yeah, Felder moved to western Pennsylvania last winter from Boston, where he was a star in 2008 at St. John’s Prep in Boston, but in the scheme of things that still didn’t mean much. The WPIAL is amongst the toughest competition is the country, with the absolute highest quality of football players and coaches.
“My first game was against Penn Hills and I realized right away how much better the football was here than in Boston,” said Felder, a North Carolina recruit. “But once I got used to the speed of the game, I did what I’ve always done which is taking the ball to the crib.”
Delbert “The Hitman” Tyler (6’0 235) is a standout linebacker on defense and a wrecker of a blocking fullback on offense. He is an avid weightlifter. The squat rack, which a lot of teenage kids seem to use for curls, became “The Hitman’s” altar. Tyler missed most of the 2009 due to injuries and he feels the Division I coaches missed out on a great linebacker.
“I got hurt and missed six games last year and the college coaches forgot about me”, said Tyler, a Hampton recruit. “I’m looking forward to going to Hampton. Their linebackers coach Keith Goganious (Buffalo Bills and Penn State) played in the pro’s and with coach Smith at Penn State. I want to play in the NFL and I’m going to play with a chip on my shoulder.”
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “A woman is like a teabag, you never know how strong she is until she gets into hot water.”
The list of former Western, Pennsylvania stars is like an NFL roll call of some of its greatest players: Tony Dorsett, Dan Marino, Mike Ditka, Joe Montana, Joe Namath, Curtis Martin, Jim Kelly, Darrelle Revis, Brandon Marshall, DeSean Jackson, Justin King, Ty Law, to name a few. If any from the 2010 class expect to make it to the league. Their future must be forged by the fire and hot water.