Leechburg coach Randy Walters selected to coaching staff for U.S. Tackle National Team

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Monday, May 13, 2024 | 12:10 PM


Randy Walters was born and raised in Canada, a product of Grimsby, Ontario.

After high school, the current Leechburg head coach quarterbacked the Hamilton Hurricanes to the 1980 Canadian Junior Football League championship game. He then helped the University of Guelph win the 1984 national championship.

He then transitioned to coaching, first at Guelph and then in the U.S. at both Edinboro and Gannon.

Walters said he is proud of his Canadian football playing and coaching roots, but next month, he will be a part of the efforts to bring a title home to the U.S.

The veteran coach of more than three decades has been selected to oversee the running backs on the coaching staff for the U20 U.S. Tackle National Team which will compete in the International Federation of American Football’s World Junior Championship from June 20-30, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

“This is a really cool opportunity,” Walters said. “I’ve been in the States for some time now, but I am still a Canadian citizen. It is nice to be a part of the U.S. National Team and to be thought of as someone who can bring value to the coaching staff. It’s just another opportunity to be able to coach a bunch of great kids. It is something I love to do.”

This is Walters’ first opportunity to coach a national team of this nature.

“I was scheduled to be on the staff for the International Bowl a few years ago, but they shut it down because of covid,” Walters said.

“I am grateful to have the chance to do it this time around.”

Walters’ connection that led him to be named one of the national team coaches began some three years ago with his work at USA Football’s training camp in Canton, Ohio.

“That is where I got my foot in the door,” he said.

“Obviously, knowing (Burrell coach and U20 U.S. Tackle National Team general manager) Shawn (Liotta) helped, too. He was able to get me on a list to be interviewed. They interviewed a bunch of high-quality coaches, and I guess I did well enough with my experience.

“Football is a tight fraternity, and Shawn knows a lot of people at every level of the game. I was just honored that he would think of me and help give me the chance. He wasn’t going to hand something over just because we know each other. I am proud of my resume.”

Walters said the preparation will be quick to get the team ready to play in a little over a month’s time.

“It is a little different than the normal process of getting a team ready. It’s a quicker timeline, but football is football, and it’s about helping kids be successful,” Walters said.

“I am excited to work my tail off like I always try to do, and hopefully my guys will be successful.”

Walters will serve under team head coach Mike Kelly, a longtime Canadian Football League coach who also has experience in the NFL and collegiate ranks.

The full staff has more than 15 decades of combined coaching experience.

“These coaches have succeeded at the high school, collegiate and professional levels and are prepared to develop and lead the talented athletes who will represent the United States at the IFAF World Junior Championship in June,” Liotta said.

“This is a great opportunity for football players to get a taste of international competition while learning from coaches who have seen it all.”

Liotta said Walters’ selection to the staff is well deserved.

“The job than Randy has done with the Leechburg football team; he probably doesn’t get enough credit for it,” Liotta said.

“It is amazing what he has done with that program from when he started there to how he’s built it to one that is competitive year in and year out in that Class A Eastern Conference and in Class A overall. It is a perennially strong program. It is a testament to the hard work that he, his coaching staff, and the kids have put into the program.”

The sixth IFAF World Junior Championship will feature seven teams: U.S. Canada, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Japan and Panama.

The U.S. won the first U20 tournament in 2009 and then captured the title again in 2014. It has made the gold medal game in four of the five previous tournaments. It was third in the 2018 tournament in Mexico City.

Canada owns the other three titles: 2012, 2016 and 2018.

The tournament now is played every four years.

USA Football’s national team has produced notable alumni who have achieved a great deal of success at the collegiate and professional levels, including NFL All-Pros Trevon Diggs, Tyrann Mathieu, Jordan Power, Jonathan Taylor and Wyatt Teller.

Fifteen former U.S. National Team program members became NFL Draft first-round selections. That list includes quarterbacks Mac Jones and Kenny Pickett.

Liotta said the nationwide selection process to assemble the team should conclude sometime in the next couple of weeks.

“We’re scouring the country to get the best U20 athletes that we can,” Liotta said.

“We review prospects from all over. We’ve already signed on five-star athletes and major Division I players. There is some great talent that will be a part of it.”

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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