Ron Graham coached one of the fastest, most athletic football players in the WPIAL over the past few seasons, but bring up Brandon Ifill to him, and speed and athleticism are seemingly the last things he wants to talk about.
Graham, the head football coach at Penn Hills since 2008 and an assistant prior to that, is more enthralled with Ifill's intangible contributions than his abilities as a shutdown corner or explosive playmaker.
"He's a high-character young man, the type of kid who held the team together through adversity," Graham said. "Some of the things that came as far as what we faced this year, he was the one who held it all together."
In addition to his football skills, Ifill is also a standout in track and field, winning the WPIAL 200-meter dash title.
For his leadership as much as for his 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash, Ifill has been selected as the PG East Male High School Athlete of the Year.
A Pitt football recruit, Ifill was chosen over candidates at high schools throughout the PG East circulation area.
"When things changed or became challenging for us, he was one of the kids who maintained discipline," Graham said. "He just was a real leader on and off the field.
"He's a good student who was well-respected on the team and within the school. He's just one of those kids you like to have in your program. He's really just an excellent student-athlete."
A 5-foot-11 cornerback/wide receiver, Ifill led the Indians with 22 receptions for 253 receiving yards last season, adding two touchdowns. Over the past three seasons, he had 95 catches for 1,340 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Ifill was a starter on both offense and defense from his sophomore year through graduation and was even a part-time starter as a freshman in 2006.
Graham watched an already mature athlete grow even more over that time, becoming a leader to whom the rest of the Indians looked.
"I think that's what coach wanted my role to be," Ifill said. "He wanted somebody to step up and keep the team together.
"It kind of just happened that way. There had been a lot of guys older than me over the years, and I took their example and used it for when my class became the seniors. I knew I had to became a senior leader on the team."
Over the past four years, Penn Hills went a combined 29-17, advancing to at least the WPIAL quarterfinals each season (with one WPIAL title game appearance and another semifinal berth and two conference titles), overcoming slow starts each season and finishing strong.
"Of course you always want to get more, but I'm satisfied with everything that happened," Ifill said.
The same can be said for a track career that included two WPIAL Class AAA 200-meter dash titles as well as winning gold with Indians' relay teams.
This past season, he won the 200 meters by running it in 21.89 seconds and took the silver in the 100 (10.91 seconds). He then placed fifth in each at the PIAA championships.
"Track was something I enjoyed," Ifill said. "It was something that helped me in football but I ended up really enjoying it."
Ifill was selected to play in the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association East-West All-Star Game in Altoona last month. Soon thereafter, he reported to Oakland for classes at Pitt.
"Everything's been going great so far with school and training and everything," Ifill said. "I'm definitely looking forward to being here the next four years."
Ifill had several scholarship offers from big-time schools but elected to stay close to home at Pitt.
As someone who sounds as if he's one of Ifill's biggest fans, it should come as no surprise that Graham believes he will excel on and off the field at Pitt.
"Absolutely he will succeed at the next level," Graham said. "He has strong family values that his mother and father instituted in him. He's a stellar young man.
"For one thing, he has a strong work ethic and he's also gifted as an athlete with football and track as well.
"He's a student of the game. He works really hard in film sessions. He's one of those kids who gives 100 percent with whatever paths that he takes on."