Whiteleather follows in brothers’ footsteps as standout football player at Rochester

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Tuesday, September 25, 2018 | 4:03 PM


Little brothers often find themselves getting to indulge in something once their older siblings are through with it, be it clothes, a baseball glove or even a car. But for Noah Whiteleather, his is very unique hand-me-down.

Whiteleather has stepped into his two older brothers’ shoes as a standout football player at Rochester.

His oldest brother, Brent, was a star running back for the Rams, rushing for close to 2,000 yards in 2004 as Rochester won the WPIAL Class A championship and finished as the PIAA runner-up. Older brother Tony was also a standout as a receiver, running back and defensive back, leading Rochester to several deep playoff runs before graduating in 2008. Both went on to play college football at Cal (Pa.).

“I watched my brothers play here while I was growing up,” Whiteleather said. “They left a legacy. I’m just trying to carry that on.”

Whiteleather has done that in a big way. At the mid-point of the season, the senior running back has rushed for 879 yards and nine touchdowns as No. 5-ranked Rochester has amassed a 4-1 record, 2-1 in the Class A Big Seven Conference.

“He’s got a lot to live up to with his bloodlines,” longtime Rochester coach Gene Matsook said. “His brothers came through and did some great things. Noah is carrying on that family tradition. He’s doing everything we expected him to do. He sees the field well, he’s powerful, he got speed. He has all of the ingredients that make a great football player.”

Whiteleather showed off those ingredients two weeks ago in a nonconference win over Leechburg, rushing for a school record 356 yards and three TDs. He had 149 yards after one quarter.

“I didn’t even realize how many yards he had until someone told me after the game,” Matsook said. “He just goes out and gets it done. He makes it look so easy. We’ve had him for a couple years, but he’s taken his game up a level this year. But he’s a guy that doesn’t care about the stats; he cares about winning. I guarantee he’ll be the first to tell you he didn’t do it alone.”

Matsook was prophetic in that sense. Whiteleather continuously used “we” and “us” as his preferred pronouns when discussing his success.

“The season we’re having, it’s all of us,” Whiteleather said. “We all put in the work in the offseason and its paying off. And our line — they deserve all the credit.”

In the record-setting performance against Leechburg, Whiteleather broke a mark set almost three decades ago by Essex Law, a member of the WPIAL’s 4,000-yard rushing club.

Law is Whiteleather’s cousin.

“He was happy for me,” Whiteleather said. “He told me to just keep doing my thing. I never got to see him play, but I’ve called up his highlights on YouTube and he was unbelievable back in the day. People tell me he was one of the greatest players ever, and it’s obvious watching his highlights.”

Whiteleather prepared for his senior season by traveling around the country playing against high-level competition in the seven-on-seven circuit with Team 412 Elite with some of the area’s top players. That, along with his fast start to the season, has opened the eyes of several colleges.

Duquesne, Robert Morris and Cal (Pa.) have been showing the most interest, although Central Michigan has recently entered the picture, as well, and is making a push for his services. He is making a visit to Cal (Pa.) this weekend.

“Schools like his versatility,” Matsook said. “He can play running back or receiver on offense, or he can play the corner or at safety on defense. He has a lot to offer.”

“I’ll play wherever a team needs me,” Whiteleather said.

But college football is not his priority at the moment. He wants to experience what so many Rochester players before him have experienced.

“We want to play at Heinz,” Whiteleather said of the site of the WPIAL Class A championship, which returns to Heinz Field this season. “We want that championship.”

Jim Equels Jr. is a freelance writer.

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