Flash back and forward: Another Garrity making mark at NA
North Allegheny's Gregg Garrity scores a touchdown against Seneca Valley earlier this season. Garrity has caught 41 passes for 864 yards with 12 touchdowns this year.
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Gregg Garrity has heard the comparisons, and he doesn't shy away from them.
After all, it's great to be compared with someone who played on Penn State's 1982 national championship football team and in the National Football League ... especially when that person is your father.
That's the status Gregg "Pook" Garrity enjoys as he and his North Allegheny High School football teammates get ready for today's WPIAL Class AAAA semifinal game against Northern Eight rival Seneca Valley at 7:30 p.m. at North Hills High School's Martorelli Stadium. The winner advances to next Friday's WPIAL Class AAAA championship game at Heinz Field. North Allegheny won the regular-season game between the two schools, 45-3.
North Allegheny has won the past two WPIAL Class AAAA championships, and the Tigers also captured a PIAA Class AAAA title in 2010 when Garrity was a sophomore.
But the son won't accept the mantle as the top football player in their Bradford Woods household just yet.
"I don't think we're at that point yet," said this 5-foot-10, 160-pound senior wide receiver.
His father, also named Gregg, graduated from North Allegheny in 1979 and caught some clutch passes from quarterback Todd Blackledge en route to the Nittany Lions' 1982 trophy. His celebration after catching a 47-yard touchdown pass from Blackledge that clinched a 27-23 Penn State victory in the 1983 Sugar Bowl adorned the January 10, 1983, cover of Sports Illustrated.
Garrity Sr. played for eight seasons in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles
"Right now, he has the upper hand," the younger Garrity said. "He was on a national championship team, and he played in the NFL. But we might see in a few years."
Both Garritys took similar paths to the roles that defined them as top receivers.
Garrity Sr. was a running back at North Allegheny. As a Penn State freshman, he was a safety on the Lions' vaunted defense. That soon changed.
"During spring ball at the end of my freshman year, I was moved to wide receiver," said Garrity, who owns a construction business.
He became the Lions' top wide receiver and spent his NFL career at that position. He has enjoyed the game's evolution from a run-oriented game to the more balanced style seen today.
"It was a different game back then," he said. "When I played in high school, we might have thrown five or six times a game. Now they throw the ball almost as much as they run it.
"From my point of view, it's a lot more exciting, and not just because my son is there. The game today is a lot more entertaining."
Like his father, the younger Garrity started out as a running back.
"I was a running back for three or four years [in youth football], but I moved to receiver when I was 8 or 9," he said. "I think my dad kind of knew I had good hands, and we already had some pretty good athletes at running back.
"People who saw him play and have seen me play say we're a lot alike. He was a lot faster, but I'm pretty quick. At first, it was difficult [at wide receiver] because I was a young kid trying to catch passes. But I got better, and I guess it worked out."
That's an understatement.
Going into tonight's rematch with the Raiders, Garrity has caught 41 passes for 864 yards, an average of 21.1 yards per catch. Twelve of those receptions have resulted in touchdowns.
North Allegheny football coach Art Walker has enjoyed Garrity's abilities in the three seasons he's been with the team.
"He's not the fastest receiver we have, but he runs great routes and also knows how to get open deep," Walker said. "Pook is patient and knows how to attack defenses. He communicates well on the field. When he's not on the field, he's always talking with [quarterback] Mack Leftwich on the sideline."
Garrity Sr. said his son reminds him a lot of Wes Welker, a 5-9, 185-pound wide receiver with the New England Patriots.
"Just like Welker, he's a slot guy who finds the hole and gets open to catch the ball," he said. "He's been making big plays this season."
Both Garritys praise Leftwich's talents in guiding the Tigers' offense into the playoffs.
"I think he's the most underrated [high school] quarterback in the country," his wide receiver/teammate said. "He throws an unreal ball. It's a spiral every time, and I don't think he gets enough credit for what he's done. He can also scramble and run, and if we lose focus, he always gets us back on track."
Leftwich has completed 99 of 159 passes for 2,051 yards. A Stephen F. Austin State University recruit, Leftwich has thrown 27 touchdown passes and has yet to be intercepted.
"I can't believe that more schools weren't drooling over Mack," Garrity Sr. said. "He's the best quarterback I've seen in a long time."
The younger Garrity has been known as "Pook" to friends and family for as long as he can remember.
"Either my mom or my sister gave me that nickname," he said. "A lot of people don't know my first name is Gregg."
Both Garritys hope the son can follow in the father's footsteps to compete in the college ranks.
Walker agrees that's a realistic possibility.
"There's no question he could play in college," the coach said. "Where that will happen is to be determined. But there are a lot of people who didn't think he could play in Quad-A and do what he's done for us.
"I think he could be a slot receiver for a college team. He's smart and talented, and he'd have to see where he could fit in a [college team's] offensive scheme. But I wouldn't bet against him."
First Published November 16, 2012 12:00 am