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Former Penn State football captain offers inspiration to Baldwin gridders |

Former Penn State football captain offers inspiration to Baldwin gridders

| Wednesday, August 19, 2015 9:00 p.m
submitted photo
Lee Rubin
submitted photo
Lee Rubin

High school football practice kicked off Monday.

How did the Baldwin Fighting Highlanders prepare for practice last week?

The Baldwin football team sat in on a motivational talk by guest speaker Lee Rubin, a former three-year starting free safety and team captain for Penn State.

After spending 15 years as a human resources professional with such Fortune 500 companies as Merrill Lynch, Johnson & Johnson and Charles Schwab, Rubin began a professional speaking career.

“I deliver a presentation that reinforces time-tested, universal principles that make for stronger teams,” said Rubin, who was a teammate of Baldwin grad Brian Gelzheiser at Penn State in the early 1990s.

Gelzheiser was a linebacking star with the Nittany Lions from 1991-94 and finished his career as the second-leading tackler in school history.

Rubin’s ability to articulate winning principles with clarity and practical application makes him a highly sought-after speaker among corporations, colleges and universities and sports teams throughout the country.

He also is the author of three books, including “WIN: Simple Insights to Help You Win the Game of Life.”

“Lee Rubin’s speech was a phenomenal inspiration for our student-athletes,” Pete Wagner, Baldwin’s head coach, said. “Lee’s components of ‘extraordinary teams’ grasp what team core values are all about and why playing on a team is a special opportunity.

“The speech connected with our student-athletes on another level, and I am extremely pleased our team had the opportunity to learn.”

Wagner is in his third season as the Fighting Highlanders’ field boss.

He scheduled the guest-speaking appearance by Rubin as a preseason “team activity,” similar to a trip to Canton, Ohio, and attending a Pirates game at PNC Park the previous two years.

“I am always looking for opportunities that go beyond the playing field that give our players the opportunity to grow and mold into a stronger team,” Wagner said.

Here’s what a few NFL coaches say about Rubin in a testimonial flyer:

“We brought Lee in to address the team during a critical and pivotal time during our preseason camp (at Penn State). He nailed it,” said Bill O’Brien of the Houston Texans. “His message of personal and team excellence resonated with our entire team — including the coaching staff. I highly recommend Lee as a speaker that will help your team function at peak performance.”

“Lee Rubin is an outstanding leader, communicator and team-builder of tremendous character and integrity whom I highly recommend,” said Jim Caldwell of the Detroit Lions.

Rubin, who had an interception in the Nittany Lions’ 31-13 upset of Tennessee in the 1994 Citrus Bowl, was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, and raised in New Jersey.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in speech communications, with a minor in business, from Penn State.

Rubin addresses the following in his motivational speeches:

• Making personal sacrifices to achieve a common goal

• Communicating off the field to build trust on the field

• Leveraging adversity to develop team chemistry

• Approaching practice properly to develop consistency

The Baldwin football players, in particular seniors Nick Altavilla, Vince Persichetti, Brandon Schleicher, Brenden Badstibner and Zach Brown, had high praise for Rubin’s efforts.

Altavilla is a wide receiver/defensive back who was a first-team all-conference selection last season.

“I thought it was a great way to get all of us on the same page before camp rolls around,” Altavilla said. “I could see in my teammates’ eyes that his words were hitting every one of them, including myself.

“Mr. Rubin is a very motivational guy and knows exactly what to say and how to say it, so it sticks to us. I was pleased to have him in to talk to all of us.”

Persichetti will play running back and cornerback this season.

“I think (Rubin’s) presentation was great for us,” Persichetti said. “He helped us think more as a team rather than just as individuals.”

Schleicher has switched from a wide receiving role to quarterback this season. He also will see action in the Baldwin secondary.

“Lee Rubin was a strong speaker who made not only me but my team realize that we are one big family,” Schleicher said, “and in order to win we must trust each other.”

Badstibner and Brown are returning all-conference linemen for the Fighting Highlanders. They are expected to anchor the offensive and defensive lines.

“Mr. Rubin’s presentation was an eye-opener, I think, to a lot of players on the team, including myself,” Badstibner said. “Our coaching staff consistently preaches the same points as Mr. Rubin did, but coming from another person in different words helped to hit the points home.”

Added Brown, “His presentation was very inspirational. I think it got to a lot of the players and really explained (to us) how to be an extraordinary team.”

Ray Fisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5820 or

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