Oakmont, Pitt grad Dennis Persin kept up tradition in football
Growing up in Oakmont as the youngest of four brothers, Dennis Persin often found himself in the backyard playing football and learned lessons that helped shape his life.
Each of his brothers played college football, and Persin was determined to forge his own path in the sport.
Persin, 71, was a key member of the 1965 Oakmont team that won the WPIAL Class B championship, and he went on to play at Penn State at Pitt.
He also was a WPIAL track champion in javelin.
Persin is one of the eight inductees of the 50th Alle-Kiski Hall of Fame class that will be honored May 18 at the Quality Inn in New Kensington.
“The tradition in the A-K Valley was tough football,” Persin said. “That was the standard you were expected to keep up, and that’s what we tried to do. The guys that played before you were the heroes, and you wanted to be like them.”
Persin’s brothers, Nick (VMI), Ron (Millersville), and Leonard (Boston College), attended Oakmont, and when Dennis got his opportunity, he made the most of it.
A tight end/defensive back, Persin led the Oaks in interceptions his junior and senior seasons and was named All-WPIAL team in 1965. Under the direction of legendary coach late Chuck Wagner, Oakmont went undefeated in ’65 and beat Apollo in the Class B championship.
“That was a unique situation because when I was in ninth grade, our junior high team lost every game,” Persin said. “It was a quite a turnaround to become the WPIAL champions.
“We played against Coraopolis in the regular season, and we were down at halftime. The coach at Coraopolis was Serafino ‘Foge’ Fazio, who went on to coach at Pitt. We ended up coming back to win that game, and that was the turning point in our season. When I was at Pitt, Foge Fazio was an assistant and I never hesitated to remind him about that game.”
That spring, Persin set a school record in the javelin with a throw of 193 feet, 7 1/2 inches. After winning the WPIAL title, he placed fourth at states.
Persin was a part of Joe Paterno’s second recruiting class at Penn State but transferred to Pitt his sophomore year.
“Back then, freshmen weren’t eligible to play, so my goal was to start as a sophomore,” Persin said. We had the spring game, and I was running second-team linebacker at that time. Joe Paterno said whoever comes back and is in the best shape is going to be the starting linebacker. I came back for my sophomore season, and the first thing I found out that I was moved to defensive end. As an 18-year-old kid, I probably wasn’t able to accept that.”
At Pitt, Persin started as a walk-on and eventually earned a scholarship. He ended up becoming a starting offensive lineman in 1969 and played there until a knee injury against West Virginia ended his career.
“I got to play in the L.A. Coliseum against UCLA. We went to Norman and played Oklahoma, who had the Heisman trophy winner that year (Steve Owens), and I had the opportunity to play in Beaver Stadium and Pitt Stadium,” Persin said. “That made for some tremendous memories to have over the years.”
Persin graduated from Pitt in 1971 and attended the Ohio Northern School of Law, where he graduated in 1973.
He has been practicing law for more than 40 years in Greensburg, where he resides with his wife, Diane.
Persin is an avid runner and golfer. He has placed at several local races and was third in his age group in the Chautauqua (N.Y.) 3.5-mile run last year.