At the request of his midget-league coaches, Jeff Sinclair grudingly gave up his running back spot to become a quarterback in eighth grade.
That was four years ago and Sinclair has been a quarterback ever since. But he still has a lot of running back left in him.
Sinclair is a senior at Highlands High School. Just going by statistics, it wouldn't be an overstatement to call him one of the best running/throwing quarterbacks in recent WPIAL history.
Last week, Sinclair went over 1,000 yards throwing and running for the season. It is a terrific accomplishment. There are no records to prove it, but a player running and throwing for 1,000 yards is highly unusual -- in only 10 games.
Former Jeannette megastar Terrelle Pryor never had the double-double 1,000 yards in 10 games. Neither did West Allegheny's Tyler Palko, or North Hills' Eric Kasperowicz in 10 games. Those are a few of the best running/throwing quarterbacks in the WPIAL over the past two decades.
"I guess it is pretty unusual, but actually, it was my goal at the beginning of the year to get 1,000 in both," Sinclair said. "It was kind of nice to do it last week in my last game at home."
For the season, the 6-foot-3, 185-pound Sinclair has completed 78 of 139 passes for 1,076 yards and six touchdowns. He also has rushed for 1,025 yards on 154 attempts and scored 19 touchdowns. He is one of the chief reasons Highlands is 10-0 and in the quarterfinals of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs.
As for that move to quarterback four years ago, Sinclair said, "I was kind of mad at first because I always felt like I was the hardest runner. But I got real tall and slowed down some at that time. ... Those years at running back help, just with how to read blocks."
Many of Highlands' plays are designed for Sinclair to decide whether he should run or pass.
"We sprint out just about every play," he said. "I check everybody, and if nobody is open, I don't hesitate. I just go. That will probably hurt me if I play quarterback at the next level, but for now that's what I do."
Highlands coach Sam Albert believes Division I colleges should be looking at Sinclair, but interest has been minimal. Michigan assistant coach Tony Gibson called Sinclair in the middle of the season and requested a game tape. Sinclair sent one and got a letter back from Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez, saying the Wolverines were going to continue to monitor him.
That's about the only Division I-A school that has showed interest in Sinclair as a quarterback. But he also is an outstanding safety. He has four interceptions for the year and had 17 tackles in one game.
"Some people tell me I'm the next Terrelle Pryor," Sinclair said. "I laugh. I'm not that much of a freak athlete."
There's a member of the Bulger family on TV, but this one isn't Marc.
Meg Bulger, a former star basketball player at Oakland Catholic who enjoyed a fine career at West Virginia University, is the new sideline reporter for FSN's WPIAL games. Bulger, 23, is the sister of St. Louis Rams quarterback Marc Bulger.
FSN will televise a game live every Friday throughout the playoffs, plus all four championship games Nov. 22 at Heinz Field. Meg Bulger will work every one of the games.
"A lot of people have said to me, 'You have to start at the bottom in this business,'" Bulger said. "But working for FSN and doing high school football around here? That's not the bottom. Just the way people look at high school football around here makes this big."
Bulger majored in communications at West Virginia and decided near the end of her basketball career that she might want to give television sports a shot for a career. She interned at a public broadcasting station. After not making it in the WNBA, she ran into FSN sportscaster Paul Alexander. Bulger told him she had an interest in sports television. The next thing you know, FSN executive producer Shawn McClintock had Bulger into the station's North Shore studio for a tryout.
Bulger worked her first game last week (Canon-McMillan vs. Shaler). FSN will televise the North Hills-Penn Hills game live tonight.
"I thought it went well. I had a lot of fun with it," Bulger said of the first game.
Bulger seemingly would be a good fit for television. Even in her high school days, she was always well-spoken and quite personable in interviews. She knows some people feel female sideline reporters are nothing more than talking bimbos who don't know much about sports. But she doesn't feel she's in that mold.
"I feel like I'm just as confident with football as basketball," Bulger said.
Besides Marc, her father played at Notre Dame.
Greensburg Central Catholic David Miller became only the fourth WPIAL football player in the past 30 seasons to score 200 points in the regular season.
Miller, a junior running back, finished with 200 points (32 touchdowns and 8 points on conversions). The only other players to score 200 since the Post-Gazette started keeping scoring statistics in 1979 are Mars' Billy Bair (204 in 2007), Rochester's Essex Law (204 in 1991) and Laurel Highlands' Jim Smith (200 in 1989).
• East Allegheny running back Monte Ashby finished his career as the 15th-leading rusher in WPIAL history. He had 4,699 yards on 608 attempts in three seasons -- one at Duquesne and two at East Allegheny.
• Seneca Valley receiver Matt Plautz led the WPIAL in regular-season receptions with 60, the most in the past four seasons.
Mike White can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1975.