Thomas Jefferson’s Werderber honored with Breisinger Award

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Friday, March 6, 2020 | 5:15 PM


Thomas Jefferson senior Nathan Werderber officially enlisted Dec. 30 with the U.S. Marines Corps.

One of the toughest athletes in the starting lineup for the TJ football team last fall, Werderber will leave Sept. 14 for basic training at Parris Island in South Carolina.

Not only was Werderber known for his toughness, his teammates also viewed him as the quintessential TJ football player.

A 6-foot, 200-pound fullback/linebacker, Werderber was the recipient of the coveted Breisinger Award at the football team’s postseason banquet March 1 at Georgetown Centre in Pleasant Hills.

“Winning the Breisinger Award was truly a hugh honor, and I’m glad all my teammates were able to see me as a leader,” Werderber said.

The award was established in 1979. Named after former Pleasant Hills police officer Albert Breisinger, it is presented annually to a TJ senior football player for his hard work, community involvement and academics.

It is not the team MVP. It goes to a senior athlete who best exemplifies the “character, courage, leadership and sacrifice demonstrated in the life and eternal spirit” of Breisinger, whose high school uniform number, 62, is the only one retired at Thomas Jefferson.

“Nate is everything that the Breisinger Award represents,” TJ coach Bill Cherpak said. “Character, integrity, courage, humility, respect; Nate has them all. He is an incredible young man. He’s a leader, a great player and an even better person. He led our defense to the best season in the history of TJ football. He made everyone around him better and that is the mark of a great player.

“I am extremely proud of him and honored to have been his coach. He is unselfish and always thinks of others first. His decision to join the Marines speaks volumes about his leadership and character. His impact on our program the last two years is immeasurable. Nate is one of a kind and will be greatly missed.”

Scott Breisinger, Alby’s brother, said he likes the fact the Breisinger Award falls into the “player’s choice” category.

“What’s impressive to our family is that the Breisinger Award is picked by the players,” he said. “They know better than anyone who leads by example, who gives it all every play in games and practice.

Previous winners include Gabe Dominick (2018), Logan Burnsworth (2017), Jimbo Nassida (2016), Jake Maxwell (2015), Zack Reynolds (2014), Anthony Rash (2013), Garrett Pahanish (2013) and Pat Hall (2012).

Other recent recipients were Dom Presto (2011), Dylan Breisinger (2010), Sam Johnston (2009), Evan Zampatti (2008), Orlando Torres (2007), Jonathan Licht (2006), Matt Donlin (2006), Jimmy Lowe (2005), Adam Plantz (2004), Jon Tuladzieck (2003), Anthony Cappelli (2002), Nate Starrett (2001) and Tom Jura (2000).

Werderber and the Jaguars won the PIAA Class 4A championship Dec. 5 with a 46-7 victory over Dallas at Hersheypark Stadium, capping a perfect 16-0 season.

The TJ gridders also were WPIAL champs, rolling past rival Belle Vernon, 41-7, in the title game Nov. 16 at Heinz Field.

Werderber was the lead blocker in 2019 for senior RB Dylan Mallozzi and senior QB Shane Stump in the Jaguars’ offensive backfield.

Mallozzi and Stump combined for 2,306 yards and 41 touchdowns on the ground, with Mallozzi rushing for a team-high 1,760 yards and 28 scores on 219 carries.

On defense, Werderber and sophomore Isaac Eckley started at inside linebacker between OLBs Bowen Dame, a senior, and Preston Zandier, a junior.

Werderber led the Jaguars in tackles, and was named first-team all-conference at linebacker and second-team at running back. He also was named all-conference as a junior; the Jaguars finished 11-1 that year.

Remarkably, Werderber and his senior teammates did not lose at home in their football careers, going 24-0 at TJ Stadium over the past four years.

“Nate has been an invaluable part of our success,” Cherpak said. “He is a leader on and off the field and a great representative of our program. He is exactly the type of young man that makes coaching rewarding.”

Werderber, who owns a 3.2 GPA, has one brother, Nick, who is a sophomore point guard at TJ, and one sister, Marlana, who competed in volleyball in high school and currently is a second-year nursing student at Duquesne.

“I would describe my career here a success,” Werderber said. “I’ll miss all my friends and all the good memories we share, like hanging out after summer workouts, or going to eat after practice, or celebrating a win after the game, and, you know, playing every Friday night. There are some things I will never forget, like my memories with my friends, and other things I want to forget, like summer conditioning.

“My (senior) season and career were awesome. I’m so glad I decided to play football and become friends with some of the best people I’ve ever met. We consider ourselves a family.”

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