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Hempfield's Pilato recognized with Athleadership Grant

Bill Shirley | For the Tribune-Review
Hempfield's Tony Pilato pulls down a rebound during second half action Friday night at Kiski Area High School January 11, 2013.

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By Brian Graham
Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, 11:08 p.m.

Hempfield sophomore Tony Pilato has been awarded a National Athleadership Grant sponsored by NCSA Athletic Recruiting and the NFLPA to put toward his college education.

Pilato — a starting offensive lineman in football, a forward on the basketball team and a thrower in track and field — won the award based on the NCSA's merit of excelling in leadership in the community, academic achievement, athletics and a written essay.

Although just a boy in terms of age, Pilato has proven to be a man on the football field and basketball court. Standing 6-foot-7 and roughly 290 pounds, he's shown flashes of athletic dominance that should make him a sought-after prospect during his junior and senior years.

“It was very special for me to win the honor and be able to get a head start in my recruiting as a sophomore and really get my name out there early,” Pilato said. “It'll be nice to have a scholarship to let coaches see my information about the season.”

When his football and basketball coaches found out Pilato received the award, neither was surprised he'd been acknowledged.

“The sky is the limit with his size and ability,” football coach Rich Bowen said. “What I like about him is as a sophomore, he stepped up as a leader at halftime in the locker room. He let his voice be heard. I think he'll be a great leader over the years.”

Added basketball coach Jim Nesser: “He's a committed kid that wants to be a team player and wants to do whatever he can to help his team win. He wants to be a part of everything. He's a special person that is willing to put that kind of effort out.”

It's easy to see Pilato's leadership in athletics, but it's his off-the-field contributions that carry the most weight, he said. Pilato's grandfather was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and caring for his grandfather carries as much responsibility to him as does his school work and training.

“I help him with his daily struggles like getting him in the car, caring for him on the weekends when my grandmother grocery shops and just sit with him,” Pilato said. “Me and my brothers really try to keep up with getting him healthy and provide for him, which he can't really do for himself anymore.”

Pilato said the scholarship means a lot to him due to the fact it focuses on what he strives to achieve in the community as much as it does in game action. He said the help of his family has given him perspective on what he's been able to accomplish to this point in his life.

“If I could just try to give back to my community, my grandfather and parents for helping me get to where I am now, that's what I want to do,” he said. “I just try to give back to them for helping me get to the high level of play that I'm at right now.”

Pilato is humble for his age and athletic ability and is quick to pass off the recognition for this prestigious award. The magnitude of its importance can be seen in a quote from DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFLPA, in the NCSA's press release.

“We are very pleased to be involved with NCSA in assisting in the recognition and the selection of young qualified student-athletes to receive scholarship opportunities,” Smith said. “Any time you can identify, help and reward future leaders to further their education and athletic pursuits, it's a win-win and we are pleased to contribute to this worthy effort with NCSA.”

Pilato has been identified and will be a name synonymous with the Hempfield community in the coming years.

Brian Graham is a freelance writer.

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