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Clairton grads, Pitt football teammates come back to pass torch to new generation

| Monday, July 29, 2013, 3:31 a.m.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | Daily News
In this file photo from July 2013, former Clairton star and current Pitt player Tyler Boyd instructs 6-year-old Hassan Wanzo of Clairton on proper ball placement when running.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | Daily News
Allen Rice,10, of Clairton catches a pass during a University of Pittsburgh football camp on Saturday outisde Clairton Education Center.

University of Pittsburgh student-athletes taught Clairton Little League Football Association players the importance of hard work and education during a football camp Saturday morning.

Clairton graduates Tyler Boyd, Terrish Webb, Trent Coles, Emmanuel Williams and Kevin Weatherspoon and their Pitt teammates Manasseh Garner and Ed Tinker led about 50 young Bears in drills and lessons until storms cut the session short.

“We had (the campers) doing the cone drill and footwork techniques,” Boyd said. “We were doing routes, defensive back drills, back peddling. We knew the rain was coming but we stayed outside as long as we could. I told them, ‘You may end up playing in this weather.' They listened. They just kept going.”

Association president Tonya Payne, Boyd's mother. said the youngsters' persistence despite the weather was a good lesson.

“I see something positive for them,” she said. “I know what the program gave to my son, what he got through it.”

She said having a group of Clairton's hometown football heroes conduct the camp helped build enthusiasm among the participants.

“They were excited when we passed out the information that the Pitt guys were coming to do a camp with them,” Payne said. “It's usually hard to keep the younger ones' attention, but they were focused. A lot of them look up to Tyler and Kevin and Trenton and Parrish. They're like celebrities. The Bears are like the Steelers.”

The association is for players ages 5-14. Boyd and Webb played together in the program and went on to help lead the high school team to a 63-game winning streak — which is the longest in the nation — and several WPIAL and state championships.

Payne organized the football camp with the college players. NCAA rules prohibit coaches from participating.

“I just feel like it inspired them to become what we are now,” Boyd said. “We didn't have college players work with us at that age. We had to work off each other. I think it's probably going to be easier on them than it was for us.”

Jaivion Clifford, 6, said he most enjoyed playing with Weatherspoon, his cousin, and taking pictures with Boyd.

“I listened and I was catching the ball,” Jaivion said.

“He was speechless,” Jaivion's mother Darlene Clifford said. “He was smiling from ear to ear. His cheeks had to hurt.”

The college players emphasized the importance of education and getting good grades in order to play football.

Darlene Clifford, a preschool teacher with the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, said the association teaches that message by monitoring its members' progress in the classroom.

“It's not just an extracurricular activity,” she said. “They work together with the school to make sure these kids make it. Education has to come first. That's how these kids are going to make it in life.”

“I'm going to make honor roll again,” Jaivion said.

Clairton Middle School reading teacher Maria Suss watched as her sons Mason, 7, and Maddox, 6, were instructed by her former students.

“It was almost a surreal kind of a thing because I taught all the (college) kids who came,” Suss said. “It's like they're paying it back. It's really neat for me to see them succeed.”

Suss said her boys love playing football in any weather.

“I think even if it was snowing they would have loved every minute of it,” she said.

The Pitt players were treated to a luncheon at Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Clairton in appreciation for their participation.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1965.


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