Laurel Highlands’ Rodney Gallagher commits to play football at West Virginia

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Wednesday, May 25, 2022 | 3:13 PM


Keeping his family close was important to Rodney Gallagher, so he did what countless other Western Pennsylvania football recruits have done and committed to his hometown team.

But for him, a junior at Laurel Highlands in Fayette County, that’s not Pitt or Penn State.

That’s West Virginia.

Gallagher, the state’s top-ranked football recruit in the 2023 class, committed Wednesday to the Mountaineers, ending a recruiting process that lasted almost three years and first started with him receiving Division I basketball offers.

Now rated as a four-star football recruit, Gallagher narrowed his college options to West Virginia, Penn State, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech.

Rivals ranked him No. 105 nationally.

He earlier included Pitt, Oklahoma State, Oregon and Texas among his top eight schools, but decided in the past two weeks that his future was in the Mountain State.

“It is 20 minutes down the road,” Gallagher said. “Wherever I decided to go, I wanted to be closer to my family. I think my family can take me a long way. They’ve already done so much for me. I just want to continue to do a lot of things for them.”

Gallagher made his announcement at a press conference in the high school gym with his sisters and father sitting beside him. On the table was a picture of his late mother, Crystal, who died in 2011.

“Family means everything,” said his father, also named Rodney. “I lost my wife and he lost his mom and the bond became even stronger. So for him to go to West Virginia and us being right down the road, that means a lot.”

Gallagher said he told Mountaineers coach Neal Brown about his commitment shortly before making his afternoon announcement. The 6-foot, 180-pound junior will play slot receiver for West Virginia, which statistically has one of the leading pass offenses in the Big 12.

“I feel like I can be really special in that position, when I get the ball in my hands in space,” Gallagher said.

He had more than two dozen FBS offers, but his recruiting journey started in the summer of 2019 with basketball offers. West Virginia was among the schools recruiting Gallagher in both sports, but he decided in December to limit his college focus to football. He said again Wednesday he won’t play basketball at WVU.

However, Gallagher’s basketball days aren’t over. He won’t enroll early at WVU, meaning he’ll have one more high school basketball season. Laurel Highlands won the WPIAL title this past winter, the team’s second in three years.

“(West Virginia coaches) want me to play my basketball season here and I want to play it,” he said. “Get another championship and try to be even more legendary here in this community.”

Gallagher played quarterback and defensive back for the school’s football team last fall. He topped 1,000 yards both passing and rushing in the regular season and led the Mustangs to their first playoff win in team history.

He passed for 1,365 yards and 12 touchdowns, rushed for 1,130 yards and scored 20 times.

Gallagher had moved his commitment date a couple of times in recent months. His latest plans had involved a July 4 announcement, but he moved up his timeline and skipped visits to Oklahoma State, Oregon and Texas.

“I knew where home was at,” Gallagher said. “I didn’t want to waste anybody’s time. And I didn’t want to waste my own time going on those official visits. I already knew where I wanted to go. West Virginia was just my home.”

Gallagher is active on social media and has shown interest in pursuing financial opportunities through Name Image Likeness deals, but said that didn’t influence his college choice.

“This is really a football fit for me,” he said. “Hopefully that comes along the way, but I’m not worried about that right now.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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