2022 Trib HSSN Preseason Football All-Star Team: Leechburg’s Braylan Lovelace
Saturday, June 25, 2022 | 7:44 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.
When coach Randy Walters talks about Leechburg football star Braylan Lovelace, he always thinks of him as a natural leader and someone who played a key role in the team’s nine-win season last year.
Last season, the Blue Devils made their first playoff game in 32 years. Walters said Lovelace led by example on and off the field during their season and playoff run. Lovelace bought into Walters’ gameplan, and Lovelace’s personality and his dedication to working with others led to the team’s success.
“He’s just got a big smile and a big personality,” Walters said. “Along with him and a bunch of other kids, he’s just really easy to work with.”
The team had a season that rejuvenated the football program at Leechburg. Lovelace’s play and determination caught the eyes of Division-I football programs. Two of those schools were in the ACC: Pitt and Virginia Tech. Lovelace committed to Pitt after they offered him a scholarship.
“It’s just a big dream of mine since I was 5 years old to play for Pitt. We watch a lot of the games when they’re home. I just like envisioning myself on the field and now being able to actually do it, it really pushed me over the edge to commit,” Lovelace said. “On my official (visit), the team, even though I wasn’t committed or on the team, I was just there for a visit, they just like made me really feel like family.”
The Panthers look to use Lovelace as a linebacker. Pitt is known to be a college that develops NFL talent. Hugh Green, Clint Session, and Jerry Olsavsky are just a few of many players who excelled at the college and pro level as linebackers.
“It’s great to be a part of something like that. Pitt has a very good linebacker history,” Lovelace said. “It’s just great to be a part of that, and it’s an honor to be a part of that.”
Although his dreams of playing at Pitt await, he still has one more season at Leechburg and plans to work on his craft so he’s ready for the next level. He has an intense focus on improving his pass coverage. He’s been practicing backpedals and opening his hips, so he’s ready to compete when the time comes.
“I got to get bigger, stronger and faster, but one of the big things I’ve been working on is coverage. That’s a big thing,” Lovelace said. “In college football, that’s not really something you see in single-A football. A lot of it’s like a run game and stuff like that. I haven’t really experienced that.”
Lovelace is playing with Leechburg’s 7-on-7 team this summer as he continues to prepare for his senior season. Walters plans on having him play safety in the summer because of his athleticism and the smaller roster in the summer. Nonetheless, Walters will have Lovelace play middle linebacker in the regular season so he’s closer to the play.
Summer football gives Lovelace the chance to continue to add to the success he accomplished last season, and Walters sees Lovelace as a leader who can help continue the team’s success on both sides of the ball. In the offseason, Walters’ plan is to give Lovelace reps at running back, and he is tinkering with the gameplan to get him more involved in the passing game.
“My plan as far as with him, in particular, is just trying to get him the ball as much as possible. Not just handing the ball off to him, but to get him to the ball more in the passing game,” Walters said.
“With our seven on sevens last week, and us going down to Pitt this weekend, we’re just trying to concentrate on ways to get him the football.”
Lovelace is excited to see what his senior season brings. Last year, Leechburg won in the first round against California, 28-7, but lost in the second round 38-28 to Cornell. Lovelace looks to make it back to the playoffs with his team and wants to make a run for the WPIAL title.
“Expect big things. We’ve been working hard. Right after last season, we got right back and we started our lifting program,” Lovelace said. “We’ve been working hard all offseason. Expect big things. We expect a big run in the season and then an even bigger run in the playoffs. We don’t want to be second-round exits again so that’s our whole goal: to make it even farther in the playoffs and even become a championship team.”
Committed to: Pitt
Division I offers: Pitt, Army, Brown, Bucknell, Columbia, Delaware, Penn and Virginia Tech
2021 statistics: 171 carries, 1,506 rushing yards, 30 TDs
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