South Xtra: TJ grad to be inducted into Mercyhurst Hall of Fame

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Brian Haberstock lives so close to his old high school that he can't help but overhear an occasional roar from the stands on Friday nights in the fall.

He doesn't usually go to Thomas Jefferson football games anymore, but he still follows the team that plays its home games a short walk up Old Clairton Road from his home in Jefferson Hills.

It's his other school, a little further away up Interstate-79, where Haberstock will be on Saturday when he is inducted into the Mercyhurst Athletics Hall of Fame. Haberstock was a running back at Mercyhurst from 1987 to 1990 following a standout high school career at Thomas Jefferson.

He will be one of eight inductees into Mercyhurst's 2014 Hall of Fame class, and he was shocked when he got the call from the Lakers athletic director Joe Kimball.

"I was speechless for a moment," Haberstock said. "I didn't expect it. My family is pretty proud."

Haberstock piled up impressive numbers at Mercyhurst. He rushed for 1,271 yards in his career and holds the school record for most rushing yards in a game with 282 yards against Buffalo in 1990. He also holds the record for the longest kick return in school history with a 100-yard touchdown return his sophomore year.

During his high school days at Thomas Jefferson, the Jaguars struggled through some difficult seasons. The team went through three different football coaches in his four years at the school. The Jaguars coach during his senior season, Bill Englert, said his biggest mistake during his first year on the job was not handing the ball off to Haberstock more.

"I'd seen him on film from the year before," Englert said. "But had I known the talent he had, I would have built the entire offense around him."

Englert coached the Jaguars for three more seasons after Haberstock graduated. Now he is an assistant to the superintendent at West Allegheny School District in Imperial. He also serves as the chairperson on the WPIAL football committee.

When the time came to pick a college, Haberstock chose Mercyhurst largely because of how much he liked head football coach Tony DeMeo. But after Haberstock played a year on the Mercyhurst junior varsity team, DeMeo left for a job as an assistant at Temple.

Like his high school career, Haberstock would eventually go through three different head coaches at Mercyhurst.

"I considered transferring to another school because I really wanted to play for Tony DeMeo," Haberstock said. "But I understand that he was trying to further his career and do what's best for him and his family."

Haberstock stayed at Mercyhurst and went on to put up some of the best numbers in school history. His 5.1 yards per carry average during his career was a record that stood until 2013.

"He was one of the best players I ever recruited," said DeMeo, who retired in 2011 after nearly 40 years of coaching. "I thought he was going to be a superstar at Mercyhurst, and I think he was."

When he first watched Haberstock's film, DeMeo only needed to see a handful of plays before he knew he wanted him to play for the Lakers, an NCAA Division II program. When Haberstock made it to campus, DeMeo was even more impressed by the way he approached the game and how hard he worked in practice.

These days Haberstock works as a foreign currency trader at Bank of New York Mellon. For him, trading has a competitive nature, much like football.

He graduated from Mercyhurst in 1991 following a senior season in which the Lakers won only one game. He will be back for his Hall of Fame induction Saturday in what is part of Mercyhurst's annual Reunion Weekend festivities.

"He's so well deserving of it," DeMeo said. "If Brian Haberstock isn't in the Mercyhurst Hall of Fame, they shouldn't have one."

Sean Hammond: or 412-263-1466 and Twitter @sean_hammond.

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