As a social studies teacher and coach, William McLinden Jr. was counted on to guide and instruct, but he constantly strove for something more.
For Mr. McLinden, he saw it as his duty to help children reach their full potential. It was a goal most publicly seen on the football field as an assistant football coach at Pittsburgh Allderdice High School, but to him, it was most importantly taking place inside the school's classrooms.
Mr. McLinden, 47, died Saturday in his Green Tree home from unknown causes.
After he spent most of his life in a sport defined by toughness and physicality, it was his warmth and compassion that stood out the most to those who loved him.
"He was a very intense man, but he had the most kind heart you could ever hope for in a person," said Jennifer McLinden, his wife.
Mr. McLinden began his football career as a standout player at Bethel Park, where he was an all-state selection in 1983 before taking part in the Big 33 Football Classic.
He attended West Virginia University on an athletic scholarship in 1984, but later transferred to John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio, where he continued to play football. It was there that he decided to pursue a career as a teacher, something he saw as an opportunity to help children find their potential for personal growth.
After initially working as a substitute teacher for Pittsburgh Public Schools, Mr. McLinden started as an instructor at Allderdice in 1999 and joined the Dragons' football coaching staff in 2000. Most recently, Mr. McLinden coached the team's offensive and defensive line, but was not able to coach last season after undergoing back surgery.
Jerry Haslett took over the school's head coaching position five years ago and was always enamored by Mr. McLinden's ability to connect with and make a difference in the lives of players.
"The kids understood him as a person and how much he cared about them," Mr. Haslett said. "That's really the basis of all of his relationships with those kids. They all knew he cared deeply for them."
Mr. McLinden's profession brought him in contact with children on a daily basis, but none had a larger impact on his life than his son, William McLinden III. William, 10, was diagnosed with a form of autism when he was 2, but for any problem that ever arose, his parents were always there for him, something that profoundly changed Mr. McLinden.
"Will pulled more potential out of his father than even his father knew he had," Mrs. McLinden said.
In addition to his wife and son, Mr. McLinden is survived by his brother, Peter of Cincinnati; his sister, Maureen of Overbrook; and his mother, Katherine of McDonald.
Visitation is scheduled for 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. Wednesday at Slater Funeral Home on Greentree Road; the family is trying to coordinate a Mass for Thursday.
The family suggests memorials and donations be made to the William McLinden III Education Fund.
Craig Meyer: email@example.com and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG.