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Western Pa. isn’t No. 1 for NFL Draft | TribLIVE.com
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Western Pa. isn’t No. 1 for NFL Draft

Tribune-Review
| Wednesday, April 26, 2006 12:00 a.m

Josh Lay had never placed his standing in the NFL Draft in such a context, so the former Aliquippa and Pitt cornerback felt a tingling sensation when asked what it would mean if he was the first WPIAL player selected.

“It’s really mind-blowing,” said Lay, who could join Ty Law and Charles Fisher as former Aliquippa cornerbacks selected in the NFL Draft. “I never even thought of it like that. The chills just came through me, that I might be the first one of my class to get drafted from the WPIAL.”

That Lay and former Seton-La Salle and Toledo quarterback Bruce Gradkowski aren’t expected to be chosen until the third or fourth round at earliest could be perceived as a bad sign for Western Pennsylvania’s reputation as a breeding ground for the NFL. Which begs this question: Does Western Pa. live up to its billing?

“Some years it does and some years it doesn’t,” said Joe Butler, director of Metro Index Scouting Service in Mt. Lebanon. “You’re only getting 250 guys drafted every year and we’re a small region of the country. You’ve got a population base in the WPIAL and City League, I’m guessing, of 2.5 million. If there is any more than five guys drafted out of this region, that’s a very good year. People expect more, but you’re dealing with population bases three times the size of Pittsburgh.”

Neither the WPIAL nor the City League has produced a first-round draft pick since former North Hills and Penn State linebacker LaVar Arrington was chosen second overall by the Washington Redskins in 2000. In fact, since 1990, only two other WPIAL players – both from Aliquippa – have been first-round picks: defensive tackle Sean Gilbert (Rams) in 1992, and Law (Patriots) in 1995.

“There’s not a lot of first-round picks out of this region, but there’s a lot of good guys and guys who are very productive in the NFL,” Butler said. “That’s a sign that there’s talent and very good coaching in the lower levels.”

Butler has a point. In the past decade, NFL teams have drafted 25 players from the WPIAL or City League. Of those players, 17 are still playing in the NFL and several are bona fide stars: Arrington recently signed a seven-year, $49 million contract with the New York Giants. Miami Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor (Woodland Hills), a third-round pick in 1997, is a three-time Pro Bowl selection. St. Louis Rams quarterback Marc Bulger (Central Catholic and West Virginia), a sixth-rounder in 2000 who was cut by the New Orleans Saints, was named Most Valuable Player of the 2005 Pro Bowl.

If anything, Western Pennsylvania products have proven to be productive NFL players. Charlie Batch (Steel Valley) passed for nearly 9,000 yards in four seasons with the Detroit Lions and won a Super Bowl ring as a backup with the Steelers. Same for safety Mike Logan (McKeesport and West Virginia), who started his career with Jacksonville.

Western Pennsylvania players also have shown that it doesn’t take first-day draft status or major-college experience to make it in the NFL. Offensive guard Leander Jordan (Brashear) played at Indiana (Pa.) and has spent six seasons with the Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars and San Diego Chargers. Reggie Wells (South Park) went from Clarion to starting at offensive tackle for the Arizona Cardinals.

“Recruiting is a funny business, and so is scouting,” Butler said. “Scouting is an inexact science. The one thing you can’t project is the size of a guy’s heart and how bad he wants something.”

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Western PA to NFL

Here is a look at the 25 players from the WPIAL and City League who were selected in the NFL Draft in the past decade and how they have fared:

1996

Rd.

Team

Player

Pos.

High School

College

6

CIN

Tom Tumulty

LB

Penn Hills

Pitt

Career: Knee injury forced retirement after three years.

6

IND

Mike Cawley

QB

Mt. Lebanon

James Madison

Career: Cut by several NFL teams, has played in AFL, CFL, XFL.

1997

Rd.

Team

Player

Pos.

High School

College

2

JAX

Mike Logan

FS

McKeesport

West Virginia

Career: Nine-year vet won a Super Bowl ring with Steelers.

3

MIA

Jason Taylor

DE

Woodland Hills

Akron

Career: Three-time Pro Bowl pick has 92.5 sacks.

4

NE

Damon Denson

OG

Baldwin

Michigan

Career: Spent two years with Patriots, one with Ravens.

1998

Rd.

Team

Player

Pos.

High School

College

2

DET

Charlie Batch

QB

Steel Valley

Eastern Michigan

Career: Steelers backup has 9,309 passing yards, 49 TDs.

1999

Rd.

Team

Player

Pos.

High School

College

2

CIN

Charles Fisher

CB

Aliquippa

West Virginia

Career: Ended with severe knee injury in NFL debut.

2

DAL

Solomon Page

OG

Brashear

West Virginia

Comment: Started 58 games with Cowboys, Chargers, Giants.

2000

Rd.

Team

Player

Pos.

High School

College

1

WASH

LaVar Arrington

LB

North Hills

Penn State

Career: Giants signed three-time Pro Bowler for $49M.

3

CAR

Leander Jordan

OG

Brashear

Indiana (Pa.)

Career: Has 14 starts for Panthers, Jaguars, Chargers.

4

NYG

Brandon Short

LB

McKeesport

Penn State

Career: Re-signed with Giants after two years in Carolina.

6

NO

Marc Bulger

QB

Central Catholic

West Virginia

Career: 2005 Pro Bowl MVP has 11,932 passing yards.

2001

Rd.

Team

Player

Pos.

High School

College

3

NYG

Will Peterson

CB

Laurel Highlands

Western Illinois

Career: Has 200 tackles, five INTs in five years for Giants.

3

SF

Kevan Barlow

RB

Peabody

Pitt

Career: Has 3,614 rushing yards in five years for 49ers.

5

DET

Mike McMahon

QB

North Allegheny

Rutgers

Career: Has passed for 2,867 yards; signed by Vikings.

2002

Rd.

Team

Player

Pos.

High School

College

5

TEN

Jake Schifino

WR

Penn Hills

Akron

Career: Played for Titans, Patriots; signed with Texans.

6

DAL

Bob Slowikowski

TE

Central Catholic

Virginia Tech

Career: Cut by Cowboys, Browns after serious knee injury.

2003

Rd.

Team

Player

Pos.

High School

College

4

IND

Steve Sciullo

OG

Shaler

Marshall

Career: Had 28 starts for Colts, Eagles before 2005 release.

4

TB

Lance Nimmo

OT

Laurel

West Virginia

Career: Won Super Bowl ring with Patriots; quit in 2005.

6

ARIZ

Reggie Wells

OT

South Park

Clarion

Career: Has started 26 games in three seasons with Cards.

2004

Rd.

Team

Player

Pos.

High School

College

2

SF

Shawntae Spencer

CB

Woodland Hills

Pitt

Career: Has 153 tackles, four INTs in two years with 49ers.

7

MINN

Jeff Dugan

TE

Central Catholic

Maryland

Career: A backup, he hasn’t had any catches for Vikings.

2005

Rd.

Team

Player

Pos.

High School

College

5

SF

Rasheed Marshall

WR

Brashear

West Virginia

Career: Had no catches in 12 games for 49ers as a rookie.

6

BUF

Justin Geisinger

OG

Mt. Lebanon