TribLive HSSN ranks the top 7 linebackers in WPIAL history — No. 1

September 27, 2018

Did you ever wonder how you would rank the top high school football players in WPIAL history?

So did the staff at the TribLive High School Sports Network.

Trib HSSN will rank the top 7 high school football players in WPIAL history by position based on their performance during their scholastic careers.

We will announce the players in reverse order each day, starting Saturday. The top player will be released each Friday morning.

We encourage you to tell us through social media if you agree, or if we have missed the mark with our rankings.

There are no perfect rankings, but it’s something to discuss and debate each week.

Have fun with them and hopefully your -- or your father’s -- favorite player made the lists.

Here’s a look at the Trib 7 all-time great linebackers:

No. 1 -- LaVar Arrington, North Hills

There are few athletes who have a play named after them, but Arrington is known for the “LaVar Leap.”

He acquired the sobriquet while at Penn State, perfecting the play where he would anticipate the snap count and leap over an offensive lineman to blow up a scrimmage play or a kicking play.

Arrington’s accomplishments at North Hills are nothing short of spectacular.

He played on the 1993 North Hills WPIAL and PIAA championship team as a freshman.

By the time his senior season rolled around, Arrington was known nationally as a linebacker and a running back.

He rushed for 4,357 yards on 711 carries and scored 72 touchdowns as the awards came rolling in.

Arrington was the 1996 Parade National Player of the Year, Bobby Dodd National High School Back of the Year, the Gatorade Player of the Year and USA Today Pennsylvania Player of the Year.

He also was stellar in basketball and track.

As a sprinter, Arrington recorded personal-best times of 10.85 seconds in the 100 meters and 23.14 seconds in the 200 meters. He also had top jumps of 1.96 meters in the high jump and 6.76 meters in the long jump.

After finishing ninth in the 1999 Heisman Trophy balloting, he left Penn State to enter the NFL draft. Arrington was picked No. 2 overall by Washington.

He played 85 games in seven NFL seasons.

Arrington was inducted into the WPIAL Hall of Fame in 2011.

No. 2 -- Brandon Short, McKeesport

The 1994 McKeesport Tigers (15-0) are considered by many one of the top teams in WPIAL history, and Short was a major part of it.

During the season, he compiled marks of 171 tackles, eight sacks, two interceptions, five forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries and one blocked punt.

Short was named Associated Press Pennsylvania Big School Player of the Year and was part of a USA Today list of one of the nation’s top 25 players. He played in the 1995 Big 33 game.

The Tigers beat Upper St. Clair, 21-14, to give McKeesport its first WPIAL title since 1938 when Johnstown was defeated. McKeesport then cemented itself and Short into legendary status with a 17-14 victory in the PIAA Class 4A title game win over Downingtown.

As the Whippets were driving for the winning touchdown behind star running back Arlen Harris, Short prevented Downingtown from scoring on three consecutive plays.

Short and Harris were later teammates with the St. Louis Rams after his stellar career as a linebacker with Penn State.

After his junior season with the Nittany Lions, Short entered the 2000 NFL draft and was chosen in the fourth round by the New York Giants.

He played 100 NFL games over seven seasons with the Giants and the Carolina Panthers.

No. 3 -- Sean Gilbert, Aliquippa

Gilbert played football for two Aliquippa WPIAL Class 3A title teams in 1987-88. The ’87 team defeated New Castle, 26-14 and repeated in ’88 with a 36-7 thumping over Blackhawk.

But one thing special about the ’88 team was the creation of the PIAA playoffs. That meant Aliquippa and other programs could show schools around the state what they had.

The Quips had ascended to No. 2 in the country in the USA poll, but lost the state finals to another Top 5 team, Berwick, 13-0. Aliquippa still outscored its opponents 421-101.

As a linebacker, Gilbert recorded 91 solo tackles and 37 assisted stops en route to recognition as USA Today’s Defensive Player of the Year award and a Parade Magazine All-American.

As a junior in 1987, he also was an Associated Press second-team all-state selection as an interior lineman. In ’88, Gilbert was a first-team linebacker.

He also played in the 1989 Big 33 game before heading to Pitt, where he moved to defensive tackle at 6-foot-6, 316 pounds.

Gilbert was an All-American with the Panthers in 1991. In 1990-91, he had 99 tackles, 21 for losses. He was chosen as the No. 3 overall player in the 1992 NFL draft with the Rams.

Gilbert played in 92 NFL games from 1992-2003 with the Rams, Redskins and Carolina Panthers.

No. 4 -- Paul Posluszny, Hopewell

A key member of Hopewell’s WPIAL Class 3A title team in 2002 and the runner-up squad in 2001, Posluszny was not only a middle linebacker and a bruising running back, but he also returned punts.

Posluszny carried the ball for 1,573 yards and 15 touchdowns in ’02, but it was known then that his future was on defense. In the 2002 title game at Heinz Field, Posluszny and the Vikings were ahead 20-15 late in the game, and Pine-Richland had the ball on the Hopewell 5.

The Vikings defense held to preserve the school’s only WPIAL title. Posliszny had eight tackles and knocked down two passes in the victory.

Hopewell later beat Perry, which had shut out 13 consecutive opponents, then followed with a state title game win over Strath-Haven.

Posluszny was named Trib North Player of the Year for ’02, edging out North Hills linebacker Bill Lamb and Pine-Richland quarterback Kevin McCabe. He started during his freshman season at Penn State and was a second-round draft pick by the Bills in 2007.

He recently retired after 11 NFL seasons with the Bills and Jaguars, recording 1,381 tackles in 145 games.

No. 5 -- Curtis Bray, Gateway

Bray started for Gateway from his freshman season on and was part of 33 victories from 1984-86. He played in three WPIAL title games.

In 1984, the Gators lost to Mt. Lebanon and tied North Hills, 0-0, in ’85. Bray finally won a title in ’86 as the Gators held off North Hills, 7-6, before 34,454 fans at Three Rivers Stadium, a WPIAL attendance mark at the time.

Though Gateway was bounced in the first round of the 1987 playoffs, Bray became the first defensive player ever named Gatorade National High School Player of the Year.

He was second-team all-state by the Associated Press in 1986, first team in ’87. That same year, Bray was a Parade All-American and first-team USA Today.

Bray was the first athlete in Gateway history to acquire 12 letters in his four years as part of the Gators basketball program and was the PIAA javelin champ in 1988.

Bray then went on to play for Pitt before getting into coaching. While part of the Iowa State coaching staff, Bray died in 2014 at age 43.

No. 6 -- Joe Schmidt, Brentwood

Schmidt made a name for himself even before enrolling at Brentwood. At 14, he played on a semi-pro team, the St. Clair Veterans, comprised of World War II vets.

Schmidt played for Pitt from 1950-52 and was a first-team All-American in ’52 on a Panthers team that defeated Penn State, Notre Dame and Ohio State.

He was a seventh-round choice of the Detroit Lions in 1953 and played for the team through 1965, performing in 155 games and making six consecutive Pro Bowls.

Schmidt played on the last Detroit NFL championship team in 1957.

Schmidt later coached the Lions from 1967-72.

He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1973 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2000.

The Lions retired his number 56; Pitt retired his number 65.

No. 7 -- Bill George, Waynesburg

George played on Waynesburg’s 8-0-1 team in 1945, the school’s second unbeaten team.

Perhaps better known for wrestling while at Waynesburg, George turned down a number of collegiate wrestling scholarship offers and played football at Wake Forest.

Drafted by the Chicago Bears in the second round of the 1951 NFL draft, he was credited with creating the position of middle linebacker. Playing nose guard in a five-man front, passes kept going over George’s head so he moved back several steps and a new position was born.

George played in 173 NFL games from 1952-66, 12th most of any player from a WPIAL school. He was a member of the Bears’ 1963 NFL title team.

George died at age 52 in a 1982 traffic accident in Rockford, Ill. He initially funded the Bill George Youth Football League in suburban Chicago in 1960 and was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1974.

Waynesburg’s field house is named after him, along with a street in his native community less than a mile from Interstate 79.

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