LaVar Arrington is one of the greatest high school football players to come out of Western Pennsylvania. A 1997 graduate of North Hills High School, Arrington was Parade magazine's national player of the year after his senior season.
Arrington went on to some great things after high school at Penn State and made the Pro Bowl a few times in the NFL. But he says the best coach he ever had was his coach at North Hills.
Jack McCurry resigned as Noth Hills' coach Monday night after 35 seasons, a 281-108-9 record, four WPIAL titles and one PIAA championship. This morning, Arrington had some interesting comments about his old high school coach, high school football in general and even Penn State.
Arrington (pictured during his days as a North Hills running back) now lives in Annapolis, Md., has a successful sports talk show in Washington, D.C., and sells his own line of training apparel - Xtreme Procision.
Arrington lives with his wife, Trishia, and their three children. LaVar has another son, Keeno, who lives in Peters Township.
Here are some of his comments about McCurry and other subjects.
"Hands down, he was the best coach I ever had," Arrington said."Just because that is the most influential time of a football player's life - in high school, in terms of development from a teenager to a young adult.
"I can't talk about any of my coaches with the Washington Redskins this way. My college [Penn State] has been destroyed. I will always love Penn State and the Washington Redskins, but my high school days and North Hills and Jack is the place in my heart that will be there forever.
"Even if Penn State would be in great standing these days, and even if Joe [Paterno] checked out on a different note than he did, and even if I had a Super Bowl career and was NFL defensive MVP, it still wouldn't change how I feel about Coach McCurry and North Hills football. They're the reason for me. That's the start of it all for me.
"You think about how many people don' thave that type of influence early on in their life. I was blessed to have a great family, and that would've probably been more than enough. But I have no doubt in my mind that if I did not have a head coach like McCurry and his assistants like Gus Nauman and Rick Morris, I couldn't have done it without them. Jack wasn't just my coach. He meant so much more to my development. We were like best friends. I probably would've gone to a different college if it wasn't for coach McCurry and probably would've handled things differently if it wasn't for him and North Hills."
"I call those three guys (McCurry, Nauman and Morris) the three-headed monster. Think about it. I became the best player in the country. The best in the country? Well, why was that. I think for the simple fact of the standard that Coach McCurry created at North Hills and the standard the rest of his coaching staff created. There was this feeling or pride and ownership."
But even Arrington admitted there were rough times with North Hills' coaches.
"I remember one practice in particular, I took my helmet off and said, 'What is this, mess with Lavar day?' I threw my helmet and I quit," Arrington said with a laugh. "I do believe that was my senior year, too. I don't want to call it a love-hate relationship with Jack. It doesn't even matter because I love the guy so much. He was hard on me and the rest of the coaches were hard on me. But one thing about them was, I was never any different than any other player.
"The lessons that man [McCurry] taught me. Maybe that's why I always took exception to people who felt it was proper to label me a freelancer on the field. When Joe put that label on me at Penn State, that I did what I wanted to do on the field, I never in my life could've imagined that was the way I was viewed. I think the reason why I was so offended by comments like that is because I learned from one of the greatest football minds when I was in high school. If anything, I was such a student of the game and understood it so well. I understood what defenses were trying to do even when I was a freshman in high school. When people said I was just a freelancer or just an athlete, it was an offense to me and a direct insult to the people who have modled and shaped me all these years. Last time I checked, a non-disciplined football player is not going to play for North Hills.
"Did I take chances as a player? Absolutely. But I always told people the chances I took were basically because I had confidence in my understanding of the game, and that origin started with the West View Pee Wee League I played in.
"I can name you the teams. Braves, Chiefs, Redskins. I played for all of them and Jack McCurry created a culture that stemmed all the way back to those Pee Wee Leagues. You know how difficult it is to see a culture like that these days."
Arrington can spout off name after name of the talented WPIAL football players during the 1990s. He is like an encyclopedia of WPIAL football at that time.
"I remember the Rodney Wilson kid running wild at West Greene," Arrington said. "I say the 1990s were the golden era of Western Pennsylvania football, and I still stay in touch on Facebook with players from all over during that era.
"I think about those days maybe more than any other time in my life because I think that was when it all meant the most to me."
Arrington lived in the North Hills school district, but spent most of his elementary school years attending city schools Manchester and Columbus. His mother was a Pittsburgh Public Schools teacher, which enabled LaVar to attend a city school even though he didnt live in the city.
"I wanted to go to Perry bad," LaVar said. "I wanted to wear those starred helmets at Perry and do chants. Perry was it. Keep in mind, I was a basketball player, too, and I wanted to play basketball at Perry for Chuck Franklin.
"But my parents wanted me to take some time and figure things out and their sellng point was North Hills' football program. So I went to North Hills in my eighth-grade year and just stayed there. I'm glad I did."