Former North Hills star Arrington heads WPIAL hall of fame class


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Get LaVar Arrington talking about his football playing days at North Hills High School, and one gets the idea he could start his own Wikipedia page on WPIAL football in the mid 1990s.

Arrington will name countless opponents he faced from North Allegheny's Mike McMahon to Seneca Valley's Adam Boylan to Woodland Hills' Madei Williams. But he also spouts off names of many other standout players he never faced, from Farrell's Carlos Daniels to Duquesne's Kevin Price.

"Outside of playing at Penn State, that was the most amazing time in my life," Arrington said. "Those days and those players and those memories are so vivid to me. I was a big fan. I will never forget my times that are connected to the WPIAL."

The WPIAL has made sure LaVar Arrington will never be forgotten, either.

Arrington has been selected for induction to the WPIAL Hall of Fame. The WPIAL announced the class of 2011 Tuesday morning at a news conference at the Heinz History Center in the Strip District. The WPIAL Hall of Fame Committee made the selections, and inductees will be honored at a banquet June 24 at the Radisson Hotel in Green Tree. The banquet is open to the public.

This the fifth WPIAL Hall of Fame class and selections were made in five categories -- athlete, coach, team, official and contributor.

The WPIAL also will induct a Courage Award winner, named after former Freedom athlete John Challis, whose courageous battle with cancer a few years ago became a national story.

Also this year, the WPIAL started a Heritage Award winner, given to a WPIAL athlete/individual who made a mark in sports before 1950.

As for Arrington, he is one of the greatest football players in WPIAL history. In 1996, he was Parade magazine's national player of the year. He was known as a terrific linebacker, but he also was the first running back in WPIAL Class AAAA history to rush for 4,000 career yards.

He went on to a stellar career at Penn State and pulled off a play against Illinois that became known as the LaVar Leap, where he jumped over the center and tackled the ballcarrier. But he did that twice in high school.

"To this day, Merril Hoge and I still joke about how he and Neil O'Donnell used to come to North Hills games to watch," Arrington said. "The amount of prestige that comes along with playing in the WPIAL is amazing."

Arrington also played two years of basketball at North Hills, averaged 19 points a game as a junior and was fourth in the state in the long jump as a senior. He went on to win the Butkus Award at Penn State, was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2000 NFL draft and played seven years in the NFL before retiring. He made the Pro Bowl three times.

Arrington now lives in Annapolis, Md., with his wife, Trishia, and their three children -- 5-year-old Marlee, and 3-year-old twins LaVar II and Laila. LaVar has another son, Keeno, 10, who lives in Peters Township.

Arrington also has a successful sports talk show in Washington and sells his own line of training apparel -- Xtreme Procision.

"I'm already in one hall of fame that means the world to me, and that's my high school hall," Arrington said. "Hopefully, someday I'll be in the College Hall of Fame. But to be inducted into the WPIAL hall means very much to me."

Besides Arrington, here is a look at the others in the WPIAL Hall of Fame class of 2011:

Athletes

Melanie Buddemeyer, Penn Hills, class of 1984 -- WPIAL and state champion swimmer, two-time Post-Gazette Athlete of the Year and NCAA All-American at North Carolina. Still holds WPIAL butterfly record.

Clinton Davis, Steel Valley, class of 1983 -- Greatest sprinter in WPIAL history. His PIAA records in the 200- and 400-meter dashes still stand.

Adam DiMichele, Sto-Rox, class of 2004 -- Three-sport star and only athlete in WPIAL history to be named to Post-Gazette Fabulous 22 for football, Fabulous 5 for basketball and All-Area for baseball.

Aaron Gatten, Washington, class of 1996 -- A football, wrestling and track standout who won four PIAA titles and six WPIAL championships. Played football at Penn State.

Troy Letters, Shaler Area, class of 2001 -- Won four WPIAL wrestling championships, had career record of 145-5 and won an NCAA title at Lehigh.

Marla Puryear, Thomas Jefferson, class of 1989 (posthumously) -- Great track sprinter and one of only five females in WPIAL history to win six or more gold medals in individual events at PIAA championships. She died in 2009.

Coaches

Joe Colella, Hopewell baseball -- Still active in his 48th season as the Vikings' coach and has 660 wins with three WPIAL titles and one PIAA crown.

Tom Dolde, Connellsville wrestling -- Winningest wrestling coach in WPIAL history with 448 victories. Coached seven state champions.

Bob Miller, North Allegheny volleyball -- Started coaching career in 1967 and lasted until 2002, coaching boys and girls. Won seven PIAA titles and eight WPIAL championships.

Teams

1964 Uniontown Basketball -- Had a 28-0 record, won WPIAL and PIAA titles and four of the team's top six players went on to play Division I college basketball or football. One of them was Stu Lantz, who played in the NBA.

1982 Chartiers-Houston wrestling -- The "Hoosiers" of Pennsylvania wrestling. Chartiers-Houston played "up" in classification and won the PIAA Class AAA team title.

Heritage Award

Willie Thrower, New Kensington, class of 1949 -- The first African-American quarterback to play in an NFL game in 1953 with the Chicago Bears. At New Kensington High School, Thrower was part of WPIAL championship teams in 1946 and '47.

Contributor

Boyd Stroup -- A WPIAL Board of Control member from 1972-84 who helped establish girls sports in the league in the 1970s.

Official

Pam Cherubin -- Basketball official worked more than 30 years, including time on the Division I women's college level.

Courage Award

Rich Constantine -- Constantine died last summer after a battle with cancer. He was a former WPIAL president and Board of Control member who also was athletic director at Uniontown, where he starred in football and wrestling.


Mike White: mwhite@post-gazette.com .


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