Pitt has a rich history of supplying the NFL with top-notch players; much better than its old/new rival Penn State (at least since the turn of the century). Since 2000, Pitt has put Dan Marino, Curtis Martin, Russ Grimm, Rickey Jackson and Chris Doleman in the NFL Hall of Fame. Plus, the busts of Larry Fitzgerald and Darrelle Revis are pretty much done deals at this point. In that same time, Penn State has put only Mike Munchak and Dave Robinson in the Hall (and the last time he played football it was for Vince Lombardi). Now consider that once Jason Taylor gets inducted, Woodland Hills will have produced almost as many Hall of Famers as Penn State in that time frame. So what is it about old Woody High that makes it special?
Munhall grad George Novak has a lot to do with it. As coach, Novak can be credited with six WPIAL titles, almost 300 wins and more than a dozen players who went on to the NFL. In addition, more than 90 of his former players have played at Division I schools. Woodland Hills churns out pro-football players like the city of Boston churns out great comedians — Bill Burr, Louie CK, Jen Kirkman and Patrice O’Neal, to name a few. Here are just some of the guys Novak has guided to the big time.
Jason Taylor. Only five players in NFL history have more sacks than the former Wolverine. Nobody has returned more fumbles (six) for touchdowns in the history of the league, either. You kids might remember him from Dancing With the Stars (he finished second to Kristi Yamaguchi). He’s also a six-time Pro Bowler and the 2006 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Taylor is eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2017.
Rob Gronkowski. Yes, we hate him so much. But he’s almost unstoppable in the pros, so imagine what high school defenses had to try. Gronk has a Super Bowl, four Pro Bowls and 65 touchdowns. Only Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez have caught more touchdowns as a tight end, and Gronk is only 27 years old. He is the ultimate bro in every way, but he’s still more likable than Tom Brady.
Darrin Walls. Walls just signed a contract with the Detroit Lions, but that’s still better than playing for his old team, the New York Jets. He got his start replacing an injured Darrelle Revis and has played well in the pros. He helped the Wolverines to a WPIAL title as a freshman and was a standout track athlete. Before Woody High, he played Pop Warner football for the Garfield Gators.
Ryan Mundy. He set a record at Woodland with 54 receiving touchdowns under Novak. The former Michigan Wolverine and West Virginia Mountaineer was drafted by the Steelers in 2008 and got a ring his first year. Granted, he was on the practice squad, but to show you how fair life is, Mundy has more Super Bowl rings than Dan Marino, Barry Sanders and Terrell Owens combined. Mundy played 96 games in the NFL and had six picks. He finished his career with the Giants and Bears.
Steve Breaston. Mundy’s teammate at Woodland, Breaston spent his career being overshadowed by Larry Fitzgerald. He dominated in high school, accounting for more than 5,000 yards in total offense his junior and senior years. In college, he became Michigan’s all-time leader in punt and kick returns. Breaston had a mysteriously short pro career, but still managed 255 catches and nine touchdowns.
Lousaka Polite. He’s the classic fullback, a football job that’s on its way out. From North Braddock, Polite was a three-year captain at Pitt. Nobody else has ever had that honor in Pitt’s history. Polite put together a respectable pro career, although mostly as a blocker.
Woodland Hills lost 32 players to graduation after last season, including every offensive starter. Despite that, they won their 2016 season opener 37-21, over Gateway. Check out the Wolverines at the Wolvarena, on Sept. 23 against Chartiers Valley. On Sept. 30, they host Hampton. Go see George Novak’s team. Who knows — you might just see the next Gronk.
Editors note: This story has been changed to clarify the time period used to compare Pitt and Penn State Hall of Famers. Also, PSU’s Dave Robinson was added to the list.