Gritty Kimmel happy to be at Greensburg Central Catholic

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Sunday, August 14, 2022 | 4:58 PM


You can keep your entitlement. If you want something, you earn it.

Roughly, these are the philosophies Ryan Kimmel lives by and seeks to perpetuate on and off the football field.

The hard-hitting senior at Greensburg Central Catholic has brought a blue-collar work ethic and no-nonsense approach to the Centurions, who appear to have one of the most talent-heavy rosters in WPIAL Class A as they open training camp Monday at Pine Springs in Jennerstown.

The 6-foot-1, 225-pound Kimmel is set to move from defensive end to linebacker, and he expects big things.

“I already won a WPIAL championship (at Jeannette), but I want the younger guys to experience one,” said Kimmel, who also will play offensive guard. “I want us to play for a state title. I don’t want to sound cocky, but nobody can block me if we blitz. Nobody gets in my head. If a kid does or says something to me I don’t like, he’s going to hear about it or feel the next play.

“On the field, I show my emotions. But I am humble. I treat people the way I want to be treated.”

With eight sacks, Kimmel led the GCC defense last season. He was ineligible for the playoffs because of the timing of his transfer from Jeannette.

He finished with 33 tackles, including seven for loss.

Kimmel was one of the polarizing transfers who left Jeannette after the WPIAL championship and PIAA runner-up season of 2020.

Jeannette still holds a special place for Kimmel. The town means something to him.

It is where he put his roots down. It is where he grew up. He works there, at a beer distributor.

It is home.

“People say I betrayed them,” Kimmel said. “They look at me different. But it’s not like that. I had to do what was best for me. I may go to school here, but I will always be a Jeannette kid.”

Kimmel said some personal issues had a lot to do with his move.

“I wanted to make a name for myself,” he said. “I didn’t want to be known just for my name or who I was related to. I love my family, but I wanted to break away and do my own thing in school and in football.”

GCC gave him the space to do that.

“Coming here was the best decision I ever made,” he said. “It feels right. I am doing well in school, and we have a bond here.”

Still, it was family that helped mold him, and he respects that greatly. His uncle is former Jeannette wrestling and football standout Matt Lebe — the wrestling coach at Franklin Regional — and his cousin is former Jayhawks star linebacker Justin Cramer, a four-year starter.

“Cramer pushed me and taught me a lot,” Kimmel said. “He and Zach Crutchman showed me I wasn’t the top dog any more when I came to the varsity. I wanted to be like (Cramer).”

Lebe was Kimmel’s gym teacher at Jeannette.

“People think you get special privileges because you’re related to someone,” Kimmel said. “It’s not like that. I love my uncle, but I want to people to know me for me.”

Kimmel said he holds great respect for former Jeannette coach Roy Hall and his assistants, as well as his former teammates and friends.

All things being equal, he said he wishes GCC and Jeannette were in different conferences. Instead, they’re Eastern Conference neighbors who will meet in Week 7 in Carbon.

“If they hate me, they’re not my true friends,” Kimmel said.

GCC coach Marko Thomas said Kimmel is a team captain for a reason. Kimmel volunteered to drive teammates to summer workouts, making trips all over the county, including Monessen, to gather Centurions.

“He lost that baby fat and put on muscle,” Thomas said. “He’s still 225, but it’s muscle now. He worked his butt off. I tell college coaches, if you’re starting a team, he’s the guy you want to build around.”

Kimmel “coached” the lines last year when GCC played Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in the first round of the playoffs, the same week two assistant coaches, B.J. Farrell and Joe Oslosky, died.

“He’s not afraid to put his two cents in,” Thomas said.

Kimmel said he thinks about Farrell and Oslosky daily.

“All my coaches have had an influence on me,” he said. “If we win a championship, we should put a ring on their graves.”

Colleges from various levels have shown interest in Kimmel, but most of them want film of him playing linebacker, the position many see him playing after high school.

Perspective on the recruiting front also has kept Kimmel grounded.

“When you’re a kid growing up playing football in the midgets, you want to play at Florida State or Michigan, somewhere like that,” he said. “But as you grow older you come to the realization you might be a Division III kid, and that’s OK, too. But that doesn’t stop you from trying to get to a higher level.”

Kimmel, who carries a 3.5-plus GPA, has interest from several Division III schools, but is on the radar at Division II schools such as West Virginia Wesleyan, Edinboro and Cal (Pa.).

Youngstown State has inquired but, again, needs more to go on.

“He’s kind of that tweener kid with his size,” Thomas said. “He can play at the next level, it’s just a matter of where. We’ll see what happens this year.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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