During football season, the dive play was a favorite of Central Catholic running back Riley Redman ... give him the ball and he would leap over the line or carve through it to get that critical yardage.
Though the sport has changed, the dive play is still one of his favorites.
Two-sport athletes are common in high school. There are even many three-sport participants. But Redman, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound junior from Bethel Park, has combined two skills rarely, if ever, seen before -- he has somehow transferred his football field talents to the 1-meter springboard and is a diver on the Vikings' swim team, thus giving new meaning to the football term "splash play."
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"I've only seen football players swim, I've never seen them dive," Central Catholic swim coach Jim Skirboll said. "I think he's the only one. I've been around swimming for the past 30 years and I don't know of anyone who has done that. And he's good at both.
"Riley went up to the athletic director [Chuck Crummie] at Central and told him he wanted to dive, and he sort of looked at Riley like, 'come on, really?' "
Central Catholic football coach Terry Totten was equally surprised when he heard that one of his key running backs had taken to the diving board.
"At first I thought he was just trying to avoid workouts for football," Totten said. "But I understand he's pretty good and I've seen some of the body control things he can do. He can do a full flip and land on his feet, he can walk on his hands for 20 yards. He has a lot of body control. I guess that makes for a good diver.
"But that's about the strangest combination I've ever heard of."
It's safe to say Redman flipped for the idea of diving for his high school swim team.
Before his first attempt at diving last year as a sophomore, Redman participated in parkour.
Parkour is a discipline that encourages individuals to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible, regardless of obstacles such as steps, railings or walls. The idea is to cover a distance with as little wasted movement as possible, thus jumping, somersaulting, flipping or hurdling any obstacles utilizing total body control in an attempt to accomplish a goal.
"When I was younger and I still do it, parkour, you do a series of flips," Redman said. "I was at school and I did a back flip down the steps. Some kid named Aaron Mosley told me I should join the diving team since I can do all those flips and I was like, 'Wait ... we have a diving team?' I joined the diving team and I've done well ever since.
"My first meet was against Pine-Richland. I was so nervous and I was the first one to go dive. I think I finished last."
But Redman has steadily improved since then.
Central Catholic did not have a diving coach last year, and Skirboll readily admits he has no diving experience. With some outside coaching from the Carnegie Mellon University staff, Redman managed to qualify for the WPIAL diving championships in just his first season of any sort of organized diving.
Though he finished next to last in the championships, the experience was invaluable and rather impressive for someone with no previous diving involvement, no gymnastics background like most divers have and no full-time coach.
Since then, Central Catholic has hired a diving coach. Sarah White is a graduate of Hampton High School and a former diver at Washington & Jefferson College who has been working with Redman on a daily basis.
"It has helped me tremendously getting a coach" Redman said. "I know I'm still inconsistent with some dives but she helps me very much."
There are five categories of dives that each diver must choose from: forward, back, reverse, inward and twist. To qualify for the WPIAL championship in boys Class AAA diving, a diver's score of six dives in those categories must total at least 160 with a degree of difficulty adding up to 9.5 or more. Every dive in each category is assigned a degree of difficulty on a scale of 0 to 4, with 4 being the most difficult.
Redman already has qualified for this season's WPIAL championships with a score of 161 against Woodland Hills earlier this season.
"He really puts himself out there," White said. "He goes for those difficult dives, which is what I think got him into WPIALs with barely any practice because he was in football season for so long. That was his first day back that he made WPIALs. He just came right up and did his usual hard dives like it was no big deal.
"His inward one and a half is on top right now. He looks like a pretty graceful diver but he's built like a football player. It's pretty interesting to see him dive."
It wasn't until his football teammates saw him dive that he was able to gain any credibility among them.
"At first they were like, 'No, you can't dive,' " Redman said. "In the summer of this year, we all went to Settlers Cabin. They have a dive at the wave pool and I went off the 10 meter and I did a reverse pike and that's when they were convinced that I can dive."
Redman had no problems convincing his teammates that he could play football.
An All-Northern Eight Conference punter this past season, Redman, despite taking a backseat to senior Luigi Lista-Brinza, rushed for 1,136 yards on 115 carries, an average of 9.9 yards per carry, and scored 15 touchdowns in helping the Vikings (15-1) to a WPIAL Class AAAA championship and an eventual berth in the PIAA championship game. Lista-Brinza ended up with 1,606 yards on 220 carries.
"Riley is very explosive, very much a downhill crease guy," Totten said. "He gets a crease and he's gone. He's very fast, has good balance. I think there are some things he can develop to be exceptional but his speed and his balance are his best assets right now."
It's his balance that has carried over from the football field to the springboard, Redman said, but that's about it.
"You don't use any muscle at all in diving," he said. "It's about control and you have a relationship with the springboard. Every time I try to use my strength in diving, something goes wrong.
"Coming from football, I have to lose weight to dive. Right now I don't do anything, I don't lift any weights. I do a lot of cardio and I run but that's all I do for exercise."
So what is the more difficult sport, football or diving?
"I think diving is more difficult," Redman said. "I love football, but diving is all control. If you make one slight move, like a bad move, if you do anything a split second short, you get smacked and it will hurt so much."
But the real question is: Is Redman a football player who dives, or a diver who just happens to play football?
"That is a very hard question," he said, laughing, "and I don't even want to answer that because I might get into trouble with my coaches. I love them both."
Rick Davis: firstname.lastname@example.org and 412-263-3789. First Published January 24, 2014 12:00 AM