Former Steeler Jonathan Hayes highlights WPIAL Hall of Fame induction with focus on family

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Friday, June 2, 2023 | 10:22 PM


NFL veteran Jonathan Hayes is best known for playing tight end and coaching football, but as a student at South Fayette, his parents made sure he was involved in other activities.

In hindsight, he said that was wise.

“My dad, my mom, they wanted us to do outside activities, whether it was sports or music,” said Hayes, who was inducted Friday night into the WPIAL Hall of Fame. “My brother, Jay, had to learn how to play the piano. I took piano and trumpet lessons. They wanted well-rounded people.”

But football was always there.

Hayes became an All- American at Iowa, played 12 seasons in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers and later embarked on a successful coaching career that included a national championship at Oklahoma. Three weeks ago, Hayes won an XFL championship as offensive coordinator of the Arlington Renegades. His brother, Jay, coached the defense.

“Football doesn’t define me,” Hayes said, “but it’s certainly been a big part of my life.”

The WPIAL’s 2023 class was inducted in a ceremony at the DoubleTree in Green Tree.

Valley graduate Greg Meisner, one of Hayes’ teammates with the Chiefs, also was inducted in this class. Meisner was a multi-sport standout at Valley, where he starred in football and set javelin records in track and field. The former Pitt defensive lineman played 11 NFL seasons.

“When I was at Valley, I liked playing all sports, but at the time, baseball was my favorite sport to play,” Meisner said. “Later on, I didn’t hear of many baseball scholarships in Western Pennsylvania.”

He recognized that football was the best path to college for a WPIAL athlete, so he focused his attention there.

“I realized in ninth grade that that was my ticket to be able to go to college,” he said.

The induction class featured 13 individuals, two championship teams and one Courage Award winner. The other athletes inducted were Valley’s Tom Pipkins (basketball), North Allegheny’s Ray Brinzer (wrestling), Bethel Park’s Emily Carter (swimming), Serra Catholic’s Laura Grimm (basketball) and Peters Township’s Sarah Riske McGlamery (tennis).

Pipkins set the WPIAL career scoring record in 1993 with 2,838 points and held the mark for 30 years. His record was broken this past winter.

“I remember the people were cheering for me, even the competition I was playing against,” said Pipkins, who later played at Duquesne. “It was a pleasure to have people looking at me in that light … to be looked at as one of the best in the WPIAL.”

Also inducted was longtime broadcaster Don Rebel of TribLive HSSN, Serra Catholic girls basketball coach Bill Cleary, Sto-Rox softball coach Bill Palermo and softball umpire Bob Osleger, who worked numerous WPIAL and PIAA championships.

Seneca Valley goalkeeper Virginia Fronk, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma before the fall soccer season, received the WPIAL Courage Award.

The late James “Lash” Nesser, a former boys basketball coach at Uniontown, was the heritage selection. Nesser won 680 games combined at St. John and Uniontown, where he also won a PIAA Class AAA title in 1981.

The teams inducted were the 2000-01 Oakland Catholic girls basketball team that went 31-1 and won WPIAL and PIAA Class 4A titles under coach Suzie McConnell-Serio, and the 1981-82 Monaca boys basketball team that went 28-1 and won the WPIAL Class A title with no player taller than 6-foot-2.

For many, this was a night for reminiscing.

“Probably the best memories are family,” Hayes said. “Looking across the (banquet) room, I see my son standing there with my brother. My mother and dad would take me everywhere to every game. Looking up in the stands, I’d see them there. My dad always stood at the fence.”

Hayes and his wife, Kristi, live in Cincinnati, where he coached 16 seasons with the Bengals. Their oldest son, Jaxson, just finished his fourth NBA season with the New Orleans Pelicans. Their daughter, Jillian, is a leading scorer for the Cincinnati women’s basketball team. Two younger sons are high school standouts for Cincinnati Moeller.

“To me, I think high school athletics bring families together,” Hayes said. “That’s what makes it so important and so awesome.”

Brinzer earned three consecutive WPIAL and PIAA wrestling titles for North Allegheny from 1988-90, and he won 109 consecutive matches in those three years. He later wrestled at Iowa, where he was a two-time All-American in 1993 and ’95.

Carter led the Bethel Park swimming team to consecutive state titles in 1998 and ’99 while collecting seven WPIAL and five PIAA individual gold medals. She set two WPIAL meet records and one PIAA record before competing for Stanford.

Cleary was one of only four WPIAL girls basketball coaches to win more than 600 games. He finished 657-156 in his 34 seasons, winning 18 section titles, four WPIAL titles and one state championship in 2005. Serra Catholic reached the WPIAL finals 10 times.

Grimm went 103-12 in four seasons on the Serra Catholic girls basketball team and became the program’s all-time leading scorer with 1,940 points. The Eagles reached the WPIAL finals all four seasons, winning two WPIAL titles and one state championship. She later played at Colgate.

Palermo went 589-137 as Sto-Rox’s softball coach and never had a losing season in a 35-year career that included 10 WPIAL titles and one state championship. He’s the winningest coach in WPIAL softball history.

Riske McGlamery was one of the WPIAL’s all-time best girls tennis players, winning three WPIAL singles titles and adding consecutive state championships in 1997 and ’98. She later earned All-American honors at Vanderbilt and played professionally until 2006.

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at charlan@triblive.com.

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