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Perry maintains luster in Seton-La Salle football program

| Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

When Greg Perry first joined the Seton-La Salle staff as quarterbacks coach in 1994, all he knew was he wanted to coach.

He never imagined two decades later he would accomplish so much at the small Catholic school he grew up near.

“Twenty years is kind of unheard of to be at a job let alone a school, especially in this day and age. It worked out,” Perry said. “I was there for four athletic directors and six principals.”

Perry resigned Dec. 23 after 20 years on the Seton-La Salle staff, the last nine as head coach.

With a head coaching record of 73-24, including a Century Conference championship in 2011, five WPIAL Class AA quarterfinal appearances — including four straight — and two semifinal berths, Perry says his job was much more than just the final score.

“The first thing I like to say is that I hope we made a lot of good young men. We had a lot of good football players there, but we had a lot of good people there,” Perry said. “The thing that I'm most proud of is when I step out the door there, I can say that the program has kept it's luster.”

Getting his start in the coaching business as quarterbacks coach at South Fayette under longtime friend and current Duquesne University coach Jerry Schmitt in the early ‘90s, Perry says it was there that he found a passion for teaching the position to young players.

“I just fell in love with the position and the power of the position, how it can control the football game,” Perry said. “We were there two years and (current Montour coach) Louie (Cerro) had an opening at Seton and I went there.”

As quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator for 11 seasons under Cerro, the Rebels won WPIAL titles in 2002 and 2004, including a PIAA finals appearance in 2002, and two Century Conference championships.

When Cerro took the Montour job after 2004, Perry was there to step in to guide a program he had helped build in to a Class AA power.

“When you first start out at this, you don't know,” Perry said. “At the time I had two young daughters, and it takes so much time.”

The opportunity to serve as a coach on and off the field, and work with a close-knit staff, are what kept Perry motivated all these years.

“The ability to work with young kids and hope that you can transform them and give them something to look forward to every day; that when they come into the building they know we're going to try to teach them the best way for this life,” Perry explained is what he loves most about coaching high school football.

During his time at Seton-La Salle, Perry had the opportunity to coach four all-state quarterbacks and wide receivers, two all-state lineman, and an all-state tight end and defensive back, including current Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Bruce Gradkowski and current New Orleans VooDoo (AFL) signal caller Bill Stull.

“We really developed just a respect for each other from football,” said Stull, who played at Pitt from 2005-09. “Starting with that common denominator, football brought us together.”

Stull and Perry have built a strong relationship over the years since Stull led the Rebels to that 2004 WPIAL championship by throwing for 3,310 yards. He was the first quarterback in WPIAL history to pass for more than 3,000 yards in a season.

“I know there's a lot of other coaches that helped me, but we (Perry and Stull) were on the field together working on my technique day in and day out,” Stull said. “Hours and hours we spent on those Seton-La Salle practice fields up at the high school. That's really where you learn who your coach is.”

Between college and starting his pro career, Stull had the opportunity to coach with Perry at camps and with Seton-La Salle, which Stull says was the perfect situation.

“He gave me my first coaching opportunity, coaching at Seton, helping out,” Stull said. “What other place would I want to be other than where it all started with the same man that helped me to get to where I am?”

When Stull had a brief stint with the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs in 2010, he sought Perry's advice during training camp.

“I would have phone conversations or text messages with him when I was in camp. Just going back to paying attention to details,” Stull said. “He's been there for all of the teams I've played for, the five years in college, and another four-plus years outside of college in my professional career. I can't really speak enough of him.”

It's that type of impact that gives Perry the most satisfaction in his role as head coach. Perry recalled a story about Bowling Green lineman J.J. Beggan during his senior year at Seton-La Salle in 2011.

“During his senior year his dad had suffered a heart attack at a young age and he was worried. We rallied around him and gave him an extra family to be with,” Perry said. “That's what it is there. You're not only a football team, as a coach you have to be the guy that counsels these kids too to make sure they're okay.”

Not confided to just a football field, Perry also coaches his grandson Tyler's little league baseball team.

Now that his time at Seton-La Salle is finished, Perry looks forward to making his mark on another program, wherever that may be.

“I have a couple opportunities out there that I'm going to explore,” Perry said. “I like being around kids, whether it's little league baseball or high school football, I hope to make an impression on somebody to help them out.”

Justin Criado is a freelance writer.

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