No-nonsense lineman helps launch Hempfield into new era

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Tuesday, August 17, 2021 | 5:54 PM


If you like no-nonsense, hand-in-the-dirt linemen with impeccable smarts and a mean streak, Dan Sierk is your guy.

The brawny senior from Hempfield will move from tight end to offensive tackle this season and will be a problem for opponents from his defensive end post.

You might have a hard time getting a smile out of the 6-foot-5, 250-pounder, but you can count on maximum effort from him — and unwavering focus — when he dons his shoulder pads and helmet.

Sierk has this locked-in stare that you don’t want to be on the other end of. He showed it Monday when Hempfield opened training camp on the new turf at Spartan Stadium.

“I like to lead by example,” Sierk said. “Put my head down and work.”

And you can keep the pageantry. With Sierk, it’s just line him up and get out of his way.

“I am out there to play football and win,” he added. “I don’t want to throw a parade. I just want to go out and beat some guys up and play my best.”

Sierk led Hempfield with 36 tackles last season as the Spartans finished 1-4 in a covid-shortened season. He had 5.5 sacks.

Sports run in his family. His parents are from New Mexico, but he was born in Virginia and moved to Pennsylvania when he was 1.

His father, Mike, played soccer at Rice. He was a science professor at Saint Vincent for 15 years.

His uncle ran cross country at New Mexico, and both of his grandfathers played football.

Sierk’s work ethic stretches into the classroom; you might say it works the other way. He took four advanced placement classes last year and will do so again this fall.

“A lot of guys say they hate school,” Sierk said. “I like to dive into that. I want to get into engineering, so I enjoy studying.”

Sierk has offers to play Penn and Bucknell and has interest from Lafayette, Columbia and Carnegie Mellon.

“He checks all the boxes,” Hempfield first-year coach Mike Brown said. “His leadership ability and maturity level are off the charts. You feel like you’re talking to a 23- or 26-year-old guy.”

Brown said it only took him a couple of hours with Sierk to realize how focused he is on and off the field.

“One of the biggest things is he takes on football like a job,” Brown said. “He had his headphones on in the locker room (before practice) and he is ready to play at the highest level.”

Said line coach Trevor Petrillo: “The kid is laser-focused.”

“It’s nice to have a kid like Dan in our first year because he can show the guys how it’s done,” Brown said.

Hempfield is adjusting to a new coaching staff, led by Brown, a Penn-Trafford graduate who was a defensive assistant at Robert Morris and Greensburg Central Catholic.

Rich Bowen coached the Spartans for the last season. He resigned and is now an assistant at Norwin.

“The coaches are on us all the time,” junior quarterback Jake Phillips said. “They tell us, ‘If you’re not here to compete, then why are you here?’”

Phillips said there is a different energy around the team.

“Everything is taken seriously,” he said. “All of the little things matter. The coaches are watching our body language. They want us to push each other.”

Sierk also is noticing a difference.

“If we had a bad day (of practice) last year, we had a tendency to come back and do much of the same the next day,” he said. “Now, it’s not like that. We recharge and reset the next day.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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