Deer Lakes' new coach no stranger to underdog role
Spare Steve Sciullo the talk about Deer Lakes football's history of struggle and the unlikelihood of a sudden program turnaround, because he's not interested.
Few people understand how to go from underdog to big man on campus better than Sciullo, the Lancers' new coach.
Sciullo, approved by the Deer Lakes school board Tuesday night, graduated from Shaler in 1998 as an offensive lineman with what recruiters considered mid-level Division I talent.
But he beat long odds to become a standout at Marshall and then a fourth-round draft pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 2003. His pro career, though short, included 13 starts with the Colts in his rookie season and five more with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2004.
“When I left Shaler, no one thought I'd play a down at Marshall, let alone start four years and make the NFL and play alongside Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb,” said Sciullo, 33, who stands 6-foot-5, weighs 315 pounds, and most recently served as a Hampton assistant. “I have an inspiring story, so hopefully the kids take some things from it.”
Sciullo, who met players for the first time Wednesday, succeeds T.J. Wiley, who left Deer Lakes after one season. The Lancers were winless under Wiley.
In the past 10 seasons, Deer Lakes went 28-74. Seven of those wins came in 2010 when the Lancers made the WPIAL playoffs for the first and only time in school history.
As someone who grew up down the road from Deer Lakes and now works at a school along the Route 8 corridor, Sciullo is aware of the Lancers' history to some degree.
Yet when Deer Lakes needed a coach following the 2012 season, Sciullo applied.
Even after he failed to get the job, he still had his eye on the program.
“I kept in contact with what they were doing this year and was seeing how they progressed,” Sciullo said. “Unfortunately, they didn't have a great year, but the past is the past. This is a great opportunity to get in the trenches and build from there.
“It's kind of fitting for me, since I spent my life in the trenches.”
Only two Division I schools, Marshall and Tulsa, offered Sciullo a scholarship. A four-year starter at offensive tackle, Sciullo earned first-team All-Mid-American Conference honors as a junior and senior.
Sciullo spent two topsy-turvy seasons battling for starting time in the NFL.
He was just the fourth offensive lineman in Indianapolis Colts history to start a season opener as a rookie. Lined up at right guard, he did his part to help the Colts go 12-4 in the regular season and reach the AFC championship game.
But by the time the postseason arrived, Sciullo had lost his starting spot. At Indianapolis' training camp the following season, he failed to make the team's final cut.
Philadelphia picked Sciullo up off waivers four days before its 2004 season opener. Sciullo played in 15 games, and when right guard Jermane Mayberry struggled with injuries, he stepped in to start five games for the Eagles, who lost to New England in the Super Bowl that season.
Unable to make it to the Eagles' final roster in 2005, Sciullo again found himself searching for a team.
His last hurrah in the NFL came with the Carolina Panthers, who signed him but never used him.
After retiring from pro football in 2007, Sciullo returned to Western Pennsylvania. He started working at Hampton as a paraprofessional in 2009 and joined the Talbots' coaching staff that same year. Sciullo served as the assistant in charge of the offensive and defensive line, as well as junior varsity coach.
“It's an adjustment from the technique standpoint,” Sciullo said of coaching high school players. “The fundamentals you learn in high school and the fundamentals you learn in the NFL are different things.
“But there are so many tricks of the trade that I can give them to help them grow.”