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Waynesburg coach from North Hills respected for talent, work ethic

| Thursday, July 8, 2010

Stellar athlete, record-breaker and coach. North Hills High School graduate Mike Czerwien, a former football standout at Waynesburg University, was all three of these.

"Mike was one of those individuals who only comes around about every 10 years in a coach's life," said Richard Shepas, Waynesburg athletic director and football coach.

Mike Czerwien, an assistant defensive ends coach at Waynesburg pursuing a master's degree in business administration, died Tuesday, July 6, 2010, at Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, W.Va., after becoming ill at his part-time job as a construction contractor. He was 24.

A four-year starter on the Waynesburg Yellow Jackets football team, he garnered national attention by racking up an unprecedented 53.5 career sacks, setting an NCAA all-divisions record.

While part of his legacy will be tied to his prowess on the field, his family, friends and coaches remembered him as a hard worker and a great leader.

"For him to be gone at such a young age, we're just at a loss," said Jack McCurry, his football coach at North Hills. "It boggles the mind."

Shepas praised Mr. Czerwien's "amazing work ethic and attitude" and his leadership abilities. "I am grateful to have coached him for three years and honored to have had him coaching alongside me," he said.

Mr. Czerwien's numerous accomplishments included earning NCAA Division III All-American honors in 2007, the same year he was named Player of the Year in the President's Athletic Conference. He was a first-team all-PAC honoree for four years, as well. Czerwien was even featured in the "Faces in the Crowd" section of Sports Illustrated.

Scott Fichter, Czerwien's teammate at North Hills, learned of Mr. Czerwien's death in a text message from his mother Wednesday morning. Fichter called Czerwien "a class act and a real good friend" and "one of the hardest workers I've known."

The news didn't come any easier to accept as the day progressed.

"I would get texts all day because everyone was hearing about it at different times," Fichter said. "Each time I saw it, I thought how crazy it is. It's so sad. It's horrible."

Funeral arrangements were incomplete.

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