2022 Trib HSSN Preseason Football All-Star Team: Gateway’s Brad Birch
Monday, June 20, 2022 | 6:14 PM
Editor’s note: The Tribune-Review and the TribLive High School Sports Network are profiling each member of the 25-player Trib HSSN Preseason Football All-Star team. The players will be recognized July 15 during HSSN Media Day at Kennywood Park.
Brad Birch led the WPIAL in passing in 2021, throwing for 2,623 yards and 32 touchdowns in helping Gateway to a 7-4 record and a spot in the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs.
The rising junior’s debut with the Gators earned him Big East first-team honors, an all-state nod and selection as a finalist for the Willie Thrower Award, which recognized the top WPIAL quarterbacks from the season.
While Birch’s sophomore season was successful in the eyes of many, Gateway coach Don Holl said he is far from satisfied and hit the ground running with his sights set on a banner 2022.
“Brad has worked hard in every aspect,” Holl said. “He concentrated on making sure he was doing his best academically, and he focused a lot on getting his body stronger and more fit as one of the leaders in the weight room. He had a great winter before coming out in the spring in minicamp and continuing to show his dedication to getting better and being that leader we expect of him.
“We all know how good he is, but he’s done so much to help himself be that much better.”
Birch is no shrinking violet this month as he was a visible force at the Cincinnati showcase camp last Thursday and the West Virginia camp Monday.
His plans take him to Penn State’s elite showcase event Wednesday. He was on campus in Happy Valley for an unofficial visit Nov. 13.
Birch, who received offers from Oregon and Akron in 2021, also hopes to open even more eyes when he attends Virginia Tech’s camp Sunday.
“It’s part of the process for Brad and for many others, and he has embraced the chance to be evaluated, be coached up by some great coaches and just be able to show what he can do with his great athletic ability,” Holl said.
After a breakout freshman season truncated by the covid pandemic that saw him throw for more than 1,600 yards and 30 touchdowns and lead Jeannette (10-2) to the WPIAL Class A title and a spot in the PIAA championship game, Birch made the transition to Gateway.
He was able to move past hearings by the WPIAL and PIAA on his eligibility and concentrate on preparing for the season with his new Gators teammates.
“He’d be the first to tell you that as someone who is driven to be a great player, he’s never going to be satisfied,” Holl said. “From my perspective, he did a ton of great things for us last year. He was young, and there were some young spots around him in the offensive group. When it was all said and done, he was very productive. Looking back on the season, he recognized areas where he needed to improve.
“While none of us will ever be perfect, you like guys who strive to always be moving in that direction.”
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
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