South Xtra: Bethel Park grad Baroffio is a big catch at Washington & Jefferson


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Washington & Jefferson College football coach Mike Sirianni cut his top athlete down to size at the Presidents' Athletic Conference media day, Aug. 7.

"Alex [Baroffio] is probably the best player on our team, but he's not even the second best athlete in his family," said Sirianni. Baroffio is a Bethel Park graduate who has been a starting wide receiver for the Presidents since his freshman year.

"His sister [A.J.] is at Duquesne [University] on a soccer scholarship, and his dad [Paul] was a [football] All-American at Slippery Rock. I'll bet if I dug deep enough, I would find that his mom is better than him too."

Sirianni continued to give the business to his star receiver.

"While we were eating lunch, Alex asked me if I thought he could get $7,500 for his autograph," said Sirianni, referring to Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manzel, who has been accused of accepting money for signing autographs. "I told him I didn't think he could get $7.50 for his autograph."

Sirianni stopped his comedy routine enough to point out just how important Baroffio is to the Presidents.

"Alex is one of the most talented receivers in the country," Sirianni said. "He should have no problem breaking, and most likely shattering, the school record for career receptions. And he has a chance to break the school record for career yardage. He's also a threat on end-arounds and reverses. He even played quarterback in one game, when our quarterback was injured."

Baroffio (5 feet 10, 185 pounds) has caught 178 passes for 2,153 yards and 19 touchdowns in three seasons. He needs 15 catches to break the school career record of 192, set by David Ravida (2005-08).

"Hopefully I get 15," said Baroffio, with a smile. "It's pretty cool to think that I have a chance to break the school record."

The school's career yardage record is also within reach. Ryan Silvis owns the school record with 3,155 yards. Baroffio needs 1,003 yards to top Silvis, which is clearly possible considering Baroffio accumulated 1,102 yards last season.

"I'm blessed to be in the position I'm in, but I couldn't have done it without my teammates," Baroffio said. "It's an individual record, but it takes more than just one individual to achieve it."

Last season, Baroffio caught 78 passes for 679 yards. He also rushed for 80 yards on 23 carries, and returned 11 punts for 147 yards.

"We plan to move Alex all around because he's shown terrific versatility," Sirianni said. "We will have the opportunity to showcase his talents all over the field."

Baroffio even completed 6 of 12 passes for 72 yards and a touchdown in one game last season.

"I enjoyed playing quarterback," Baroffio said. "I wish coach would let me play more at quarterback."

Baroffio has been fortunate to be teamed with his old high school quarterback, Matt Bliss, during two of his three seasons at W&J.

"It's been awesome having Matt as my quarterback. We click so well," Baroffio said. "In fact, I'm so used to a lefty [Bliss] throw to me that it's a little weird catching a pass from a right-hander."

Bliss, a starter since his sophomore year, has completed 391 of 629 passes during the past two seasons to account for 4,127 yards and 28 touchdowns with 22 interceptions.

"We were best friends even before we got to W&J," Baroffio said. "We like to throw at least three or four times a week, whether it's at school or back in Bethel Park."

Baroffio picked Washington & Jefferson after visiting the campus while Bethel Park was competing in seven-on-seven camps and meeting with the coaching staff.

"Once I talked with the coaches and saw the offense they run, I realized this was the place for me," Baroffio said. "I made the right choice."

It was a different story with Bliss.

"Matt was set to attend Mercyhurst [a Division II program located in Erie], then changed his mind at the last second," Baroffio said. "I may have influenced his decision a little bit."

Last season was a real challenge for Baroffio and his W&J teammates. Senior tailback Tim McNerney was killed in a late-night shooting in downtown Washington last October.

"Last year, was something none of us ever expected," Baroffio said. "When that happened, it really hit home. I've never been part of a team where everyone came together so quickly. We bonded. Our goal was to win the PAC title in honor of Tim. We came together so well as a team."

Dealing with the death of his teammate was the toughest thing Baroffio has dealt with in his life. Winning the conference title in McNerney's honor made the process a little easier to deal with.

"The feeling when we handed the trophy to the McNerny family was indescribable," Baroffio said. "That was the highlight of my year. It was such an unbelievable feeling."

Baroffio has high expectations for the 2013 squad.

"We have starters back at almost every position on offense," Baroffio said. "This past spring ball was the best I've ever been a part of. We have so many skilled players back. And we know the offense. We're really looking forward to the season."

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