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Tigers work out for college coaches

| Thursday, May 6, 2010

Delvon Simmons and Branden Jackson have seven college scholarship offers between them and they are growing on nearly a daily basis, so exposure isn't such a big deal to those two.

Now, for some of the other more than 70 McKeesport Area football players who turned out for the school's College Workout Day at Weigle-Schaeffer Memorial Stadium Wednesday afternoon, it was very much a big deal.

Pitt's Greg Gattuso, West Virginia's Dave McMichael, Kent State's Eugene Baker, Youngstown State's Phil Longo, Lafayette's Doug McFadden, along with Metro Index's Joe Butler, came to get a closeup look at both Simmons and Jackson, but left impressed by others like Wayne Graves, Sa'Quan Clark, Kevin Johnson, Sam Gooden, T.J. Neal and Delray Singleton, to name a few.

"There were a lot of guys who left here who were impressed by some of these kids," new McKeesport coach Jim Ward said. "Some of those guys impressed Joe Butler and he has the ear of a lot of those college guys who weren't here today."

Ward, who replaced veteran coach George Smith in February, put together the impromptu workout day in less than a month with the intention of getting his players some exposure to various college programs.

"I am trying to promote them a little bit," Ward said. "It is an opportunity for colleges to see their athleticism and a chance to see our kids in shorts. I thought this would be a great way for them to get out of what Joe Butler had at Metro Index with the exposure on top of that. Plus, this was free. It is my job to provide as many opportunities as I can for these guys."

Ward's short notice limited the number of colleges that were able to make it to the workout, but that didn't matter to any of the players who were able to show off their skills.

"I thank coach Ward every time he does something for us," Simmons said. "He will take us to different colleges. He took me and Branden to Pitt. I respect him for that because no other coach would do that for us."

Gooden skipped out on a baseball game against rival Woodland Hills to show up for the workout.

"My baseball coach told me that it was the end of the season and with only one game left to come here," Gooden said. "It was good to go out there and show them what you can do."

Jackson, who has scholarship offers from WVU, UNC and Michigan, appreciated the chance to work out for coaches, but was more interested in the effort some of his teammates showed during the 80-minute session that included agility and passing drills.

"Everybody was going full speed and hard today," Jackson said. "We should go hard every time. They all wanted to go hard today and look pretty because the college coaches were here. The way we went today is how we need to go all the way."

Simmons echoed those thoughts.

"It was motivating, but we should be like that even when they aren't here," Simmons said. "I motivate myself to come here. No coach has to show up for me to work hard. We will see next Wednesday who is out here and who isn't. Whoever is out here wants to play and who isn't doesn't want to play."

Simmons, who picked up an offer from Butch Davis and North Carolina Wednesday, is grabbing offers left and right. He has offers from UConn, North Carolina, WVU and Michigan.

Davis phoned Ward on Wednesday to inform him of his interest in the mammoth 6-foot-5, 265-pound lineman.

"He can run and he has a burst off the line," Ward said. "You just don't find guys like that. I talked to Butch Davis and we talked about just not finding guys who are that size and that athletic with that kind of burst. He is 265 and looks like he can put on 40 more. There is not one thing that he lacks."

Same goes with Jackson.

He is 6-5, 220 and can play linebacker, defensive end, wide receiver and quarterback.

Wednesday he spent more of the day with the linemen, but switched over the wide receiver during one-on-one drills. He made a couple of spectacular catches that went for touchdowns that highlighted his athletic ability.

Jackson was first being billed as this year's quarterback, but it appears that the emergence of rising senior Eric Perdue and rising junior Bryant Harper has squashed those thoughts.

"Whatever is best for the team," Jackson said. "I can play quarterback if it is needed, but at the same time I think they might need me on defense. Harper and Perdue are good. They can do it. They are stepping up and I am willing to go anywhere."

Ward is happy with the improvement of his quarterbacks.

"Each day, each one of them are getting better," Ward said. "They will separate themselves as they go through the summer. Right now, they are learning their steps and getting their footwork right."

Ward has been around the program for a little more than two months, but already has gained the respect of his players.

"You can tell he is going to be a tough coach, but he is approachable," Jackson said. "That is what I like the most."

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