Watch Brett Brumbaugh throw a football so accurately and effortlessly and you would think he was a natural at the quarterback position.
But it wasn't all that long ago that Brumbaugh had his hand in the dirt on the football field. At first, he was pegged as a natural lineman.
Brumbaugh started playing football in the fifth grade. He was one of the tallest players on the midget league team, so coaches put him at tight end. When he started playing for South Fayette's junior high team in seventh grade, he became an interior lineman.
But during that seventh grade year, he was also tried at backup quarterback. When starting quarterback Justin Watson went out with a concussion, Brumbaugh was moved to the starting quarterback spot and a star was born.
Four years later, Brumbaugh had a season like no other passing quarterback in WPIAL history. He set a record for passing yardage, led South Fayette to WPIAL and PIAA Class AA titles and now is the Post-Gazette Player of the Year. The award takes into consideration all players in the WPIAL and City League.
Brumbaugh threw for a WPIAL single-season record 3,897 yards, breaking the record of 3,726 set by his brother, Christian, in 2010. Brett completed 260 of 379 and threw 41 touchdown passes. While it was a memorable season, Brumbaugh, a 6-foot-4, 195-pound right-hander, still vividly remembers his days as a lineman -- and he perfectly understands why he was put in the position.
"Originally, I never thought I would be a quarterback," Brumbaugh said. "I was bigger than everyone else so they just put me on the line. I just figured I would play wherever. I was kind of more into basketball at the time anyway."
But when given the chance to play quarterback in junior high, Brumbaugh shined. Watson never went back to quarterback and, coincidentally, he became one of Brumbaugh's top receivers the past two years.
This season, there were times when Brumbaugh felt South Fayette's offense was unstoppable.
"There were a lot of times actually," Brumbaugh said. "Whenever we got into a rhythm, we would get 10 or 15 yards a play. It's kind of a rhythm-based offense and when one play sets up the next, it's pretty hard to stop."
Brumbaugh was at his best in big games. He threw for 299 yards in the PIAA championship game against Imhotep Charter. The WPIAL title game was played on a cold, windy day on a snow-covered Heinz Field. Brumbaugh still threw for 315 yards and led South Fayette on the winning drive after Aliquippa had taken the lead with 4:01 left.
"I think just his demeanor is what makes him," South Fayette coach Joe Rossi said. "In that Aliquippa game after they scored to go ahead, I watched him out of the corner of my eye and I saw him dancing and bouncing around. You could tell he had total confidence."
Brumbaugh has scholarship offers from Temple and Akron, but Pitt, Penn State, West Virginia and Duke also are showing interest. He already is the second-leading passer in WPIAL history with 7,326 yards. He needs only a little more than 1,000 next year to reach the record of 8,508. After this season, what can he possibly do for an encore?
"Hopefully, we can go 16-0 again, win [a PIAA title] in Hershey again and maybe individually I can get to 4,000 yards in a season and 10,000 for my career," Brumbaugh said.
PG Players of the Year by classification ...
WPIAL CLASS AAAA
Montae Nicholson - Gateway, WR-DB, 6-3, 205, SR.
Standout two-way player who caught 41 passes for 810 yards, had 72 tackles, three INTs. Will attend Michigan State.
WPIAL CLASS AAA
Chase Winovich - Thomas Jefferson, QB-LB, 6-4, 220, SR.
A force on defense with 13 sacks. Also rushed for 981 yards while playing QB. Will play linebacker at Michigan.
WPIAL CLASS AA
Brett Brumbaugh - South Fayette, QB, 6-4, 195, JR.
Set WPIAL single-season record with 3,897 passing yards. Has 7,326 yards, 85 TD passes for career.
WPIAL CLASS A
Lenny Williams - STO-ROX, QB-DB, 5-11, 197, Sr.
Finished with WPIAL record 8,508 yards and 11,559 yards offense. Threw for 2,709 this year. Will play at Temple.
Marcus Johnson - University Prep, WR-DB, 6-2, 180, Sr.
Combined with QB Ron Brown for lethal passing combo. Caught 65 passes in 10 games for 1,404 yards.
Past PG Player of the Year Winners ...
1994 Brandon Short, McKeesport
1995 Tony Zimmerman, Penn-Trafford
1996 LaVar Arrington, North Hills
1997 Brandon Williams, Valley
1998 Rod Rutherford, Perry
1999 Cecil Howard, McKeesport
2000 Josh Lay, Aliquippa
2001 Tyler Palko, West Allegheny
Steve Breaston, Woodland Hills
2002 Paul Posluszny, Hopewell
2003 Eugene Jarvis, Central Cath.
2004 Eugene Jarvis, Central Cath.
2005 Dorin Dickerson, West Allegheny
2006 Terrelle Pryor, Jeannette
2007 Terrelle Pryor, Jeannette
2008 Dorian Bell, Gateway
2009 Mike Caputo, West Allegheny
2010 Rushel Shell, Hopewell
2011 Rushel Shell, Hopewell
2012 Tyler Boyd, Clairton
For more on high school sports, go to "Varsity Blog" at www.post-gazette.com/varsityblog. Mike White: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1975 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh