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Underclassman football showcase set for May 17 at Hempfield

| Tuesday, May 6, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Franklin Regional's Brett Zanotto runs the ball against West Allegheny in the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals at North Allegheny High School's Newman Stadium on Friday, November 15, 2013. West Allegheny advanced to the finals with a 21-12 win over the Panthers.

For years, Larry Sellito said, Westmoreland County football players needed to travel elsewhere to participate in combines and athlete showcases in the hopes of getting recruited by college coaches.

Last year, the Westmoreland County Coaches Association decided to bring college recruiting closer to home.

The WCCA is preparing for its second annual Westmoreland County underclassman football showcase, scheduled for 9 a.m. May 17 at Hempfield High School. More than 100 players attended last year's inaugural event, and the WCCA expects even higher attendance next week.

“This is to highlight our kids,” said Sellito, the WCCA president. “These are kids that we coach, these are kids that we live next door to, these are kids that we see on the playing field every Friday night. I want college coaches to say, ‘Hey, Westmoreland County is just as strong as Allegheny County with their athletes.'”

In the showcase, current freshmen, sophomores and juniors will be measured in the 40-yard dash, vertical leap, pro shuttle drill and bench press. They will also participate in offensive and defensive drills and positional work.

College coaches from the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA), Division II and Division III levels can attend the showcase. While NCAA rules prohibit Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I) coaches to attend such events, Sellito said the WCCA will send the results to every school in the country.

“(FBS schools) have the ability to contact these young kids if there's someone on that list that piques their curiosity,” Sellito said.

Sellito said the showcase's purpose is to help players get a head start in recruiting.

While players can get recruited during the fall season, participating in drills in front of college coaches before the season begins allows them to get their names out there, Sellito said. Of the 44 current seniors who participated in last year's inaugural showcase, 36 will play football in college next season.

“For a lot of those young kids, (last year's event was) the first exposure they had to anything like a showcase or combine type of setting,” Sellito said. “And it's also the first exposure many of them had to college coaches (and) recruiters. So they were able to access the college recruiters, and the recruiters accessed them as well. It worked out phenomenally. We felt it was the groundwork for the football season. What they did on the football field solidified where they're at, but this was kind of the first step for many of them.”

Sellito and a small team of coaches, including Hempfield's Rich Bowen, Valley's Muzzy Colosimo and Yough's Mark Crovak, are working to get the final details down in advance of next week's showcase.

In addition to the drills, former IUP and Pittsburgh Steelers player Jai Hill will speak to players and parents about the recruiting process.

Coaches from around Westmoreland County will help players in positional drills. Sellito said all county head coaches, along with some from Allegheny County, were invited to attend or send a representative.

Although the underclassman showcase was created with Westmoreland County players in mind, players from eastern Allegheny County schools like Gateway, Plum and Serra Catholic are also expected to attend.

“This is about the kids,” Sellito said. “Anyone that we can showcase and highlight, that's what I want to do. If they're from eastern Allegheny County, Westmoreland County, we're not going to turn anyone away. We made that agreement collectively as an organization. We want to promote kids.”

Players interested in participating in the underclassman showcase, which costs $50, can contact Sellito at 412-491-1212 in order to register. Walk-up registrations will also be accepted.

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830, via email at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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