A look at some NFL football players from Aliquippa, PA.
This article is about Aliquippa, PA, and the many famous NFL football players that come from there. But first let's talk about this extraordinary little town .
Aliquippa, PA, is located about 29 miles outside of the much larger city of Pittsburgh. It's a fairly small town/city. In the not so distant past, Quip, the nickname given to the city by the locals, was a thriving community. That ended, however, in the early 1980s when the steel mills started moving away. With the closing of the mills, people found multiple generations of their families out of work; up until then, grandfathers, fathers, and sons worked side by side in these mills. With no other jobs to be found, most people moved away from the area to find work elsewhere. This caused the city’s population to drop drastically. Those who stayed found themselves struggling just to feed their families. This hasn't changed. The struggle to eat and survive is still strong in the city of Aliquippa.
The city of today is very different from the one my grandparents knew and loved. Everything is closed downtown, and the buildings are falling apart. Homes are in disrepair. The schools are severely behind academically, and there are no jobs. The city oozes with the sense of hopelessness. Children here do not have many chances; they are more likely to end up on welfare, in jail, or dead than they are to achieve any real success in a career. For this reason, the young aspire to become drug dealers or pro athletes, and perhaps Aliquippa, PA, is the only place in the world that the odds look good in both cases.
According to Neighborhood Scout, Aliquippa, PA, has one of the highest violent crimes rates in the nation, regardless of city size. Think of how small of a city Aliquippa truly is, and then realize that this city is up there in terms of violent crimes with some of the biggest cities in the nation. The city holds a population of only under 10,000 people. According to the FBI, your chance of becoming a victim of a violent crime in Aliquippa, PA, is 1 in 157.
We are nearing the end of 2016, and this city has already seen numerous murders, robberies, assaults, drug cases, and the list goes on and on.
This is not to put down the people of this city. Quips are tough-skinned and resilient people. When there is no way, they will simply make a way. And the love they have for their city is unparalleled. You will never hear someone ashamed to say they are from Aliquipp. They will speak it with a sense of pride. And they do have a reason to speak of their home with pride. Aliquippa, PA churns out NFL players like it's a pro football factory.
In the NFL, there are currently three players from Aliquippa, PA. Darrelle Revis of the New York Jets, Jonathan Baldwin of the Kansas City Chiefs, and Tommie Campbell of the Tennessee Titans.
That is simply amazing to have three NFL players come from the same desolate city, but that’s not even the beginning. The list of NFL players from Aliquippa, PA is long and includes some of the greatest. Tony Dorsett, Sean Gilbert, Ty Law, Carmine DePascal, Anthony Dorsett Jr., Charles Fisher, Josh Lay, Curt Singer, Paul Posluszny, Bob Liggett, and Willie Walker all grew up in the tough streets of Aliquippa. Frank Gnup, who played in the Canadian league, also grew up in the same city.
Mike Ditka has had an amazing career in the NFL. Mike Ditka learned the game in Aliquippa, and may be one of the most famous of the "Fighting Quips" as of yet. Ditka won an NFL title as a player, an assistant coach, and as a head coach. There is only one other person who has done this in the history of the NFL.
Richard Mann is the wide receivers coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers. If you know football, than you know that is a huge accomplishment. Currently the Steelers hold the record for the most Super Bowl wins in the NFL. He was once a "Fighting Quip", as well.
Those are just two examples of the impact individuals from Aliquippa, PA have made on the NFL. But, the question is how?
Aliquippa, PA and the NFL
How is it possible that a poverty-stricken city keeps producing quality NFL players? Mark Yaros (36), a native of Quip, gives this answer. “Aliquippa has heart”. During Yaros’ high school career in Aliquippa he played basketball, football, ran track, as well as starting his own hockey team. “Kids in Aliquippa aren’t playing football just for fun. They are playing for their lives, for a way out. Quip is a tough place to grow up; you learn early on to stand your ground and to protect what is yours, or it will be taken away from you. These kids don’t have a lot, most have nothing to look forward to but football, so they put all of their pride into that game, and they’ll be damned if they let you take their pride from them. Quip doesn’t play to win; they play to demolish your entire team. The whole community takes football seriously, the coaches, the players, and the parents. If you don’t show up for practice the coach will show up at your mother’s house looking for you,” states Yaros who experienced exactly that. Yaros was playing other sports and grew tired of adding football practice on to that, so he simply stopped going. He wanted to quit the team. His coach showed up at his mother’s house pleading with her to talk her son into coming back. “That’s just the way it is here; the coaches become like family. They really want you to succeed and will go out of their way to help you. It's serious, I’ve seen 18-year-old grown men cry after they lost a game, and I dare you to laugh. These are some of the hardest men you wouldn’t want to meet, and they are crying about a football game.”
When I ask Yaros to explain a typical football practice to me, he says one word, “Running.” “The coaches told us if we can outrun our opponent, then we got it; we‘re good. If you can’t catch, but you can run fast as hell then you’re getting on the team. Everything else can be taught. But, if you got speed on you, well that’s something that you are or aren’t. It can't be taught to you.”
On game nights, the stadiums are packed. You have to agree with Yaros; these kids play with a ‘you’re not taking this away from me’ type of attitude. From start to finish they are giving it their all, and then some. It seems the whole community comes out to support their team, and perhaps the only place in Aliquippa where you don’t see the violence the city is famous for is here in these stadiums, during the games.
Quip is a very tough town to grow up in, but the people here are tougher. The only question left is, who will be the next NFL star from Aliquippa, PA?