WPIAL 100 years: Football ... this sport has produced the most fame for the WPIAL
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This sport has unequivocally produced the most fame for the WPIAL. The league is known for producing many quarterbacks who have gone on to great things in college and professional football. But WPIAL football is much more than quarterbacks.
Consider what the league has produced:
Eight members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, including four quarterbacks -- Dan Marino, Joe Montana, Joe Namath and George Blanda. The other members from the WPIAL are linebacker Joe Schmidt, tight end Mike Ditka, running back Tony Dorsett and linebacker Bill George.
Three Heisman Trophy winners -- Dorsett, quarterback Johnny Lujack, and lineman Leon Hart.
Many college All-Americans, including Pitt's Bill Fralic (Penn Hills), who was a first-teamer three times.
Two of the past seven Butkus Award winners, signifying the top linebacker in college football -- Paul Posluszny (Hopewell) last year and LaVar Arrington (North Hills) in 1999.
1978 Lombardi Award winner (best college lineman) -- Bruce Clark (New Castle).
1952 Outland Trophy winner (best college interior lineman) -- Dick Modzewlewski (Har-Brack).
Twenty-six of the past 32 Super Bowls have included at least one former WPIAL player.
The first black NFL quarterback -- Willie Thrower (New Kensington).
The first black NCAA All-American quarterback -- Sandy Stephens (Uniontown).
Four current NFL coaches -- the Steelers' Bill Cowher (Carlynton), Green Bay's Mike McCarthy (Bishop Boyle), Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis (Fort Cherry) and San Diego's Marty Schottenheimer (Fort Cherry).
Here is a look at the Pro Football Hall of Famers and Heisman winners from the WPIAL:
Joe Montana, Ringgold
The quarterback with the "golden" touch. Won a national championship at Notre Dame in 1977 and went on to win four Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers. Also was a standout basketball player at Ringgold.
Dan Marino, Central Catholic
The kid from Oakland whose right arm led him to greatness. After a fine career at Pitt, went on to become NFL record-holder for career passing yardage (61,361), completions (4,967) and touchdowns (420). Also was a standout shortstop-pitcher at Central Catholic and the Kansas City Royals selected him in the fourth round of the 1979 draft.
Joe Namath, Beaver Falls
Quarterback led Beaver Falls to the 1960 WPIAL title. Played at University of Alabama and had distinguished NFL career, winning Super Bowl with New York Jets.
Tony Dorsett, Hopewell
The skinny kid grew up to be one of the greatest college and NFL running backs. Won Heisman Trophy at Pitt in 1976 and held NCAA all-time rushing record (6,082 yards) from 1976-1998. Rushed for 12,739 yards in NFL career with the Dallas Cowboys ('77-87) and Denver Broncos ('88).
Mike Ditka, Aliquippa
He came from the steel town and eventually earned the nickname "Iron Mike." An All-American tight end at Pitt in 1960 who earned NFL all-pro status four times. Won NFL titles as a player and then the Super Bowl as the coach of the Chicago Bears.
George Blanda, Youngwood
Ageless wonder who played 26 seasons in the AFL and NFL. Was outstanding quarterback (26,920 career passing yards) and kicker (335 field goals). Played at Youngwood, which is now part of the Hempfield school district.
All-American linebacker at Pitt in 1952. Played 13 years with the NFL's Detroit Lions and made 10 Pro Bowl appearances. Also was the Detroit Lions coach from 1967-72.
Nicknamed "The Friendly Greek," this defensive tackle played at Wake Forest and played linebacker from 1951-65 with the Chicago Bears. He was an eight-time All-Pro selection.
Johnny Lujack, Connellsville
Won the 1947 Heisman Trophy as a quarterback at Notre Dame. As a sophomore with the Fighting Irish, he lettered in football, baseball, basketball and track. Played four seasons with the Chicago Bears.
, Turtle Creek
Hart, a tight end-defensive end, won the Heisman Trophy in 1949 and is one of only two linemen to win the award. Was The Associated Press athlete of the year in 1949, beating out baseball player Jackie Robinson and golfer Sam Snead for the award. Hart played eight seasons with the NFL's Detroit Lions. Turtle Creek is part of the Woodland Hills district.
First Published August 27, 2006 12:00 am