– I had two interesting conversations this week with the Hanrattys (father Terry, son Conor), both of whom will be in Heinz Field on Saturday night.
Conor is a backup guard for Notre Dame; Terry is his dad, the former Irish All-American quarterback, who played eight years in the NFL — seven with the Steelers, winning two Super Bowl rings.
A self-proclaimed diehard Steelers fan, Conor started the first game of his collegiate career last week against Navy. You think Dad wasn’t bustin’? My story will be on triblive.com, Twitter (@JDiPaola_Trib) and Facebook by Friday morning.
Conor may not start Saturday against Pitt — coach Brian Kelly is hoping regular guard Chris Watt has recovered from his knee injury — but he may be the first reserve lineman off the bench.
Terry, who went to Butler High School, still keeps up with his alma mater, but he’s puzzled by the football program’s current hard times.
“When (former coach) Art Bernardi was there, a Division I coach had to stop in Butler every year,” he said. “It was a who’s who. Woody, Ara, Bear. Every coach known to man.”
Hanratty said Bernardi sent 63 players to Division I schools in 20 years. That included Hanratty and his running backs, Rich and Ron Saul, both of whom played a dozen years in the NFL.
Not sure how to look this up, but that 1965 Butler team might have been the only one in history that had three members of its backfield play eight or more years in the NFL.
— I ran across a list ranking the top 50 high school teams in the U.S. Six of them had some interesting connections:
No. 2 Allen (Texas) — Todd Graham coached there.
No. 7 Hoover (Ala.) — Pitt practices there when it plays in the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham. Which is more often than not recently. I once spent a January afternoon watching the Hoover basketball team practice because Pitt’s practice was closed.
No. 14 — St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) — Pitt 2014 quarterback recruit Wade Freebeck is getting ready to lead STQ on what could be a long playoff run.
Nos. 33, 39 — Upper St. Clair and Central Catholic, the top seeds in the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs. No one will be surprised if coaches Jim Render and Terry Totten guide their teams into Heinz Field for the title game in two weeks.
No. 40 Southlake Carroll (Texas) — Former Pitt quarterbacks coach Todd Dodge led Southlake Carroll to four state championships.
Here is the entire list: