Batch, Logan proud of their H.S. roots
Charlie Batch and Mike Logan have been important members of every football team that would have them since they were seven years old and running around Homestead and McKeesport with shoulder pads that probably were too big.
At Steel Valley High School in 1991, Batch was a three-year letter winner and one of the finest quarterbacks in Pennsylvania. Later, he set every passing record worth holding at Eastern Michigan. The Detroit Lions made him a second-round draft choice in 1998 and a starter in his rookie season.
Presently, he’s the Steelers’ third-team quarterback.
Logan, likewise, was one of the top high school football players in the state at McKeesport High School. He played at West Virginia and was one of the Big East’s best cornerbacks and kick returners. He was drafted in the second round by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1997 before joining the Steelers last year and earning a key role as a safety in their passing-down defenses.
They have accomplished plenty, with plenty more left to accomplish. But their roots are still important to them. No wonder.
Batch, a native of Homestead, and Logan come from one of the golden eras of local high school football. They are two of six WPIAL or City League players who were seniors in 1990 or 1991 and went on to play in the NFL. The list includes three Pro Bowl players: Patriots cornerback Ty Law of Aliquippa, Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor, who played at Woodland Hills, and Jets running back Curtis Martin of Allderdice. Linebacker Lorenzo Styles of Farrell High School played for the Atlanta Falcons in 1995 and 1996 but is no longer in the league.
Logan, who was McKeesport’s MVP and team captain during his senior season, said playing football in western Pennsylvania was an effective primer for his NFL career.
“I would think so,” he said. “The football we play here in high school is pretty good. It gets national attention from the colleges. I don’t know if this held true last year or not, but I had heard that in every Super Bowl there was someone from the Big 33 (all-star) game involved. That has to say something about Pennsylvania football.”
The success continues for many of the schools represented by the six previously mentioned western Pennsylvania natives. Aliquippa and Woodland Hills reached the quarterfinal rounds of the WPIAL playoffs this year; McKeesport and Farrell lost in the first round last week. Batch’s successors at Steel Valley were not in the playoffs, but he spent his off night Friday watching Woodland Hills play Bethel Park. Batch said he has family in the Woodland Hills School District, and he even was asked to transfer there while he was at Steel Valley.
He said no then, but Batch is hoping a bidding war on a larger scale breaks out in his behalf next year when his one-year contract with the Steelers is due to expire.
Batch has more free time than he likes or is accustomed to these days. He is the never-used, third-team quarterback with the Steelers, patiently waiting for an opportunity that he knows never may come this season.
“That’s the toughest part because you want to be out there,” said Batch, who threw for more than 9,000 yards in four seasons with the Lions. “You want to play, but at the same time, it’s not your time. You just have to get more mental reps than you did in the past.”
If the Steelers can’t convince him to stay as Tommy Maddox’s backup, Batch, who joined his hometown team in June, may be looking for another new home next year. With Kordell Stewart likely moving on, the No. 2 job probably will be open, but Batch wants to be a starter.
Meanwhile, Batch runs the Steelers’ scout team with Stewart, trying to mimic the look of every opponent. He was proud recently when he was told by the coaches to use a hard count to draw the defense offsides in practice, and it took the bait.
“I got them to jump offsides quite a few times,” he said, “but in the game they didn’t do it.”
During practice this week, prior to quarterback Michael Vick coming to town Sunday with the Atlanta Falcons, Batch made another contribution. But it required an adjustment to his playing style.
Batch, a right-hander, usually rolls out to the right. Vick, a left-hander, likes to roll left.
“You have to retrain your brain. Don’t roll right. Roll left,” he said.
He hasn’t tried to throw with his left hand, though. He knows his limitations.
“Our defense wouldn’t get any work if I had to throw left-handed,” Batch said. “It wouldn’t go any more than 5 yards.”