East Xtra: Hempfield's Pilato nearing college decision


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There might not be an athlete in the WPIAL bigger than Hempfield Area football standout Tony Pilato.

He's 6 feet 7, 300 pounds, and wears size 17 shoes.

Needless to say, Pilato is going to be a big "get" for whatever college he chooses to attend.

Pilato, an offensive tackle, is one of the most highly recruited seniors in the WPIAL. Rivals ranks Pilato as the 30th best senior in Pennsylvania.

Pilato could decide on a college as soon as today. He said Monday that his plan was to do just that. Pitt, Maryland and West Virginia are his finalists, but there's a good chance Pitt is going to be the choice. Pilato said Monday he was leaning in Pitt's direction.

"I'd probably say so," said Pilato, a Hempfield resident. "I've kind of narrowed it down to a few schools, but I really like Pitt. They started recruiting me first. Them showing trust in me and offering me first means a lot."

If Pilato chooses Pitt, it will be yet another excellent offensive line pickup for Panthers coach Paul Chryst, who has landed commitments from several of the WPIAL's top linemen the past few seasons.

The 2013 class was highlighted by Belle Vernon Area's Dorian Johnson. Bethel Park's Mike Grimm and Mt. Lebanon's Alex Bookser headlined the 2014 class. The 2015 class already includes Canon-McMillan's Alex Paulina.

"They're moving in a great direction right now," Pilato said. "They've got a lot of good, young players. A lot of freshmen played last year. I think they're definitely going to do well in the next few years. They have a good recruiting class coming in this year. The linemen in this class are really good."

Pilato's father, Sam, was a star offensive lineman at Mount Pleasant High School and played at Pitt in the early 1980s.

Take a look at Tony Pilato and his size will undoubtedly stick out first. But he is much more than just a big body. Pilato is impressive athletically.

He's a starter on Hempfield's basketball team and was named all-section each of the past two seasons. He averaged a double-double as a junior when he helped lead the Spartans to a section title.

Pilato believes his athleticism is one of several attributes that have caught the eye of college coaches.

"I think some of the coaches like how I carry myself and how I like to stay humble," Pilato said. "And they like how I play two sports. I play basketball, so that kind of shows my broadness in terms of being athletic. They like my footwork. Basketball has obviously helped me with that."

Basketball was actually Pilato's favorite sport for a while. He was a basketball player before he first took the football field. Due to weight restrictions in youth leagues, Pilato didn't start playing football until seventh grade.

When he began high school, he was 6-4, 270 pounds. Since then, he's grown a few inches, gotten into better shape and packed some muscle onto his frame, all of which has added to him improving and attracting more attention from college football recruiters.

Just as he did a year ago, Pilato participated in the Joe Moore Offensive Line Camp last month. That camp was loaded with highly successful instructors, including NFL Hall of Famer Russ Grimm and Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak. Hempfield athletic director Greg Meisner, a former NFL player himself, was also among the instructors.

"I liked it a lot," Pilato said. "It was a good experience. There were definitely a lot of guys who know what they're doing and have a lot of experience. I just tried to go in and learn something new. I wanted to improve technique-wise heading into my senior year."

Before he heads off to college, Pilato hopes to help Hempfield put together a strong season. The Spartans went 6-4 and lost in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs last fall.

"We definitely lost some good players, but I think we should have a good year," he said.

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