Massive Freeport lineman makes great strides since hiatus

| Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012, 12:05 a.m.

Freeport senior Shane McKillop, a 6-foot-6, 295-pound lineman, returned to the football field last season after a two-year hiatus of his own choosing.

Considering McKillop's impressive size — and the fact he'd already played for four years — the decision to sit out as a freshman and sophomore seemed unusual to some. He wasn't injured.

But McKillop's time away from the gridiron made sense to him.

And, when he started playing again as a junior, he had to do some catching up but steadily improved. Now, he's attracting interest from Division I programs, including Cincinnati.

“Going into high school, I didn't feel physically ready enough,” McKillop said. “I spent a couple years lifting weights and getting stronger. I was always the biggest kid in class. My dad is six feet tall, and I passed him up in seventh grade.”

Encouraged by classmates and feeling more confident, McKillop decided last year was the time to make his high school debut. He was named all-conference honorable mention at offensive tackle for Freeport (7-3, 6-1), which relied on a bruising rushing attack to reach the WPIAL Class AA playoffs.

Freeport coach John Gaillot thinks McKillop, with a varsity season under his belt, could be much better this year.

“Really, last year was like touching the top of the iceberg,” Gaillot said. “He's shown drastic improvement. He's more aggressive in everything. He still has a lot to offer. I believe this will be his breakout year, blocking and dominating at the line. That's what we're counting on, with his size.”

McKillop's personality also changed noticeably since last year.

“He's come out of his shell,” Gaillot said. “He's started to show a mean streak.”

Shane's cousins, Scott and Chris McKillop, starred at Kiski Area and Pitt. Scott is a middle linebacker for the Buffalo Bills. Shane conditioned under the supervision of Chris, who was a graduate assistant at Duquesne University before becoming a Leechburg assistant. Shane fondly remembers watching his cousins play for Pitt at Heinz Field.

“It was cool,” he said. “We sat right along the sideline.”

This past summer, McKillop attended camps at Bucknell, Cincinnati, Duquesne and Pitt, where he performed in front of many college scouts. Cincinnati's offensive line coach Don Mahoney visited Freeport and personally invited McKillop to the Bearcats' camp.

Still, McKillop wouldn't mind playing Division II or III football.

“I'm fine with those, too,” the two-way lineman said. “But I have to play better. I want to get more eyes on me and keep the interest I already have from schools.”

Paul Kogut is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at pkogut@tribweb.com or 724-224-2696.

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