High school notebook: Ex-NFL players bolster coaching staffs
By: Chris Harlan
Wednesday, August 30, 2017 | 5:57 PM
Aaron Smith and Jerame Tuman, former Steelers teammates, are roaming football fields in familiar black and gold.
The two, now North Allegheny assistants for coach Art Walker, are among a number of retired NFL players who've found their way onto the practice fields of Western Pennsylvania high schools as assistant coaches. Among them, Doug Legursky coaches the line at Deer Lakes and former Woodland Hills star Darrin Walls is defensive coordinator at Baldwin.
“You want to pay it forward,” said Deer Lakes coach Steve Sciullo, a former NFL lineman himself who won the Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts. “Whenever you're a player, especially with how long Doug played, you probably had at least five or six line coaches in those 12 competitive years. So you learn different tools, you learn different techniques, you learn different verbiage and you find the things that make it all fit.
“The style I teach is a hybrid of Marshall football, Tony Dungy and Indianapolis Colts football, and Andy Reid and Philadelphia Eagles football,” Sciullo said.
Sciullo, 37, and Legursky, 31, played for Marshall, though at different times. They ran into one another at a meeting of the NFL Retired Players Association. Legursky played seven NFL seasons, including five with the Steelers.
“It's really nice because we have two professional line coaches, so we have all the knowledge we need,” Deer Lakes junior Zak Raynovich said. “They help us tremendously. There are so many techniques and so many ways that they've taught us that I never knew.”
Smith and Tuman, who each live in the district, joined NA's varsity staff this season after working previously with younger players. Smith, 41, also has helped coach NA's basketball team. Tuman, 41, has a son, Canyon, who's a tight end for the Tigers.
Smith played defensive end from 1999-2011. Tuman was a Steelers tight end from 1999-2007.
“Aaron and Jerame are both very good teachers of the game fundamentally,” Walker said. “… I don't think every ex-NFL guy can be a good coach. I hit the jackpot with two guys who are very good. There's no arrogance. They're not talking down to people or anything like that. They're doing it from a love for the game and trying to pass down knowledge to players and the other coaches.”
Baldwin coach Loren Cooley connected with Walls through Walls' brother, Paris Ford. Cooley, a former Clairton assistant, coached Ford in the summer.
“(Walls) said he was looking to coach, and I said I've got a spot for you,” said Cooley, a first-year head coach. “The kids relate to him because he's young.”
Walls, 29, starred at Woodland Hills and Notre Dame and spent time with the Atlanta Falcons, New York Jets and Detroit Lions from 2011-16.
“Playing and coaching is something totally different,” Cooley said, “but he's been a great addition.”
Avoiding the rain
Concerned that severe weather could arrive Saturday, Aliquippa has moved up its football game with Beaver Falls.
The Beaver County rivals instead will play at 7 p.m. Friday at Aliquippa's Aschman Stadium, said Mike Zmijanac, the school's football coach and athletic director.
“The weather report is pretty heavy rain on Saturday,” Zmijanac said. “There's no sense playing in the rain.”
The Beaver Valley Conference opener, a rematch of last season's WPIAL Class 3A final, originally was scheduled for Saturday to draw a larger crowd.
WPNT-22 The Point will televise the Big East matchup of McKeesport at Franklin Regional at 7 p.m., Friday. McKeesport won 14-7 last season.
• PCN has announced its schedule of games for the regular season. The network will broadcast Upper St. Clair vs. Moon on Sept. 8, Trinity against Belle Vernon on Oct. 6 and Penn-Trafford vs. McKeesport on Oct. 27. All start at 7 p.m.