Pittsburgh City League Football

Pittsburgh City League Football
I had the opportunity to visit with my best friend, best man at my wedding, and one of the most positive role models for young men I know. Craig Aguglia is the Head Football Coach at Carrick High School and has been a teacher in the Pittsburgh City School District for over 10 years now. To say that Craig is what most of these young men and women need is an understatement. I have not met too many teachers that can build a positive rapport with so many students. Most teachers enter the field assuming they will change the world. Craig realized that that is unrealistic. He would, however, change one kid at a time, when he could and however he could.

Craig has had to intervene when students assault each other, urinate in a garbage can, and even when a 7th grader lit another students hair on fire. Classroom management resembles a correctional facility at times and Craig has realized that giving students an opportunity to learn is the first priority. Sometimes just having a student return to his class one more day is a victory in itself.

Craig, who has been my best friend since 1990, asked me point blank one day. "You think these kids really give a fuck about US History and the War of 1812?" He continued, "Some of these kids just want to get through a school day without getting their ass kicked." As did we when we were in school.

Growing Up Together
Craig, my other best friend Anthony, and I all went to Brashear High School and although it didn't have the riots like when my sister was there; you were mindful of who was walking down the hallway if you were alone. I watched a 300lb monster of a security guard get jumped and pummeled by about 20 kids. Just glad I was off their radar. Dude came back the next day to do his job. One day after they had to sew part of his ear back on his head.

We had a day-care inside our school and an auto-mechanic and auto-body class in the school as well. The Autobody teacher kept petty cash for car parts. Enough cash that two kids hit him in the head with a rubber mallet for it.

Anthony White and his brother Valentino were the only white kids living in the Swissvale projects in the 80s. They had to fight every single day. You would never know it due to how well he dresses and the amount of wine he drinks, but Anthony was one of the toughest kids I ever known. When we were jumped on multiple occasions, where Craig and I thought to run, Anthony stayed and fought. Even when a guy who looked exactly like Jackie Chan chased Craig and I down the street with a Big Wheel (I'm not shitting you), Anthony stayed. By the time we got the big wheel off of the Last Samurai, Anthony had dispersed the crowd.

None of us would complain about our homelife. The amount of time we hung out in Brookline and Beechview bars, the fact that Craig lived in a row house. None of us ever had vehicles and we walked everywhere. No matter how shitty our lives were, we didn't know any different and none of us would have it any other way. It made us who we are today. We always had one thing that would keep us together. Football.

You're too smart to be a punk
When I showed up at Carrick High School, Craig's 4 year old son, Dominic was wearing a full football uniform and Craig was giving out helmets, girdles, and jerseys. Craig knows how important football (and sports) are for these kids. There are kids that may get made fun of because they have 3 brothers and sisters with 3 different dads than themselves. He has kids that have to work 40+ hours a week and some kids that are caught in the underbelly of the urban lifestyle. The last time I was in Carrick with Craig and Anthony, we got jumped and maced by 20-30 dudes. Not our best day. Fast forward over 2 decades later and Craig may be the most important male figure in a neighborhood we would not step foot in without "rolling deep".

I watched Craig make fun of his players and they accepted it like one of their own was making the joke. I watched his compassion for a young man dealing with family and work. He probably see a lot of himself in these kids. Different color skin, same problems. I also seen him tell several kids things they needed to hear. One young man was told he was not getting equipment because they needed those for players that actually go to class and are eligible. It wasn't easy for Craig, but it is always harder to tell kids you care about what they need to hear and not what they want to hear.

He then confronted a young man for his behavior. Told him he was too smart, too talented, and too nice of a young man to hang out on Brownsville road and act like a punk. The entire team stopped and listened to Craig tell this young man what multiple people should have for a long time. Regardless of Carrick's record this year, Coach Ags will be looking for small victories daily. And those may matter more than any game in the long run.

Thursday Night Lights
When I started playing at Brashear High School in 1987, Major Harris was a freshman at WVU and the City league had 10 teams. Brashear, Westinghouse, and Perry were all contenders for the title. Besides Harris, Brashear's other claim was Sam Clancy, who played at 5th Avenue High School which later closed to become Brashear. South Hills high school also closed and left the league with 10.

All 10 teams played on the same field at South Stadium. It's since been renamed Cupples Stadium after the superintendent. It's not easy playing those non Friday night games. There were games on Thursday at 3, Thursday at 7, Friday at 3, Friday at 7, and Saturday morning at 10. At the time Duquesne University still shared the field along with a few other high schools. The fans would have to enter and exit on opposite sides and even my grandmother was not spared the metal detector.

After a bench clearing brawl right before the half against Peabody High School, I learned a few lessons. I never wore rib, hip, or thigh pads in high school because I heard that 190lb linebacker Jerry Olsavsky didn't wear them when he played at Pitt. I got lucky that I didn't get hurt playing, but when I was getting kicked in the ribs in a brawl, they would have some in handy.

I also learned that you can play a football game with Police dogs on the field. When we came back for the 2nd half, you literally had to try and avoid police officers, there were so many.

The third thing I learned is it is hard to punch someone in the face when they were wearing a facemask. I am at the bottom of the pile and one of their DBs is doing the Bruce Lee 1 inch punch to my chin and I was jamming my fingers in his eyes. There were no winners in that exchange.

The House must Fall, Brick by Brick
There was only one game that I didn't play at South Stadium and that was when we visited Westinghouse High School my freshman year. Myself and Eric Delmastro were the only two freshman to dress varsity. This was going to be a wondrous adventure.

Westinghouse is in Homewood-Brushton. You probably have never been to Homewood-Brushton because well, I don't think anyone has made it out of there who isn't from there. It's not a place you sell cookies door to door.

We had a police escort and I couldn't understand why we wore our full uniforms including helmets almost the entire busride. We stopped and warmed up in a parking lot. Then the coaches led us through the woods and held the hole in the fence open that was on our sideline. The Westinghouse Bulldogs were waiting for us. The entire school. The band would make Jackson State, Grambling, and Howard Universities look amateur. The stands were packed with bulldog pride and the Brashear Bullets had not 1 fan there. Not one. That was probably a good thing.

We ended up winning the game even when the last 4 minutes had to be played on one side of the 50 yard line because of the bricks and glass on the field. We left as fast as we came in. Never shook a hand, never took our helmets off, even on the bus.

Hall of Famer
Fast forward to my senior year and I remember being a part of history. Curtis Martin's history of running, receiving, throwing, returning a kickoff, and returning a punt all for touchdowns in one game. He was a special player even then. Between him, Ray Zellers (played for ND & the Saints), Abu Whitaker, Chad Shrocki, Aaron Justice, and Dennis Martin; there was a lot of talent. But the best athlete may have been Casey Givner, QB at Peabody. Unbelievable what that kid could do. I think he ended up playing basketball at a DII school.

What kills Commodores? Bullets
The Bullets are now the Bulls and what was once 10 teams is down to 6. South, Langley, Peabody, Schenley, & Oliver are all closed. What's left is Brashear, Perry, Carrick, Obama (new HS), Westinghouse, & Allderdice. My senior year, Perry was the creme of the crop and even played well in PIAA playoff games. They were loaded. Our game against them was the last high school game of my career and we played them tougher then just about anyone. This is the game in which I played Strong Safety and Right offensive tackle in the same game. I hounded their D-end all game, broke up a pass and had a bunch of tackles. I earned All-City honors that year as a Nose Guard at 5'4, 140lbs.

Ramon Walden was the biggest, meanest, dirtiest football player I ever seen play in person. He played outside linebacker and guard and people were scared shitless of him. He was barking at our locker room and only Bobby Sohngen, our starting Fullback/ Linebacker stood out there to talk with him. They told each other how hard they were going to bang each other's mothers and they were looking forward to murdering each other very soon. Bobby was a Junior and as touch as they got.

Now, the year before, our starting fullback Baron had his eye cut open in the middle of the game. No one knew how it happened but everyone thought they Walden had a blade and Baron pretty much knew. Fast forward to the second quarter this year and I look down the field and Walden in on top of my fiend and free safety Eric Thomas. Looked like he was choking him. He wasn't. After we broke it up I didn't see Eric til later that game on the sidelines. He had 20 stitches in his chin as it was sliced open. I thought... "That mother fucker."

Later in the game, they wore us down and got a lead. We were receiving a kick and guys who's on kick-off team and guess who's on kickoff return. There is no way in hell I am getting "highlight-reeled" as this gorilla who runs like a gazelle trucks me in front of a grandstand of "oohs".

The ball is kicked and I get to my drop point. I b-line for Walden and at the last minute, I dive full-speed at his knees and drive my helmet through his knee cap and literally felt his leg bend in half. So I thought. I did spear him in his knee, it did hyperextend and I did knock him down. He hopped up, asked the ref, "did you see that?" He pointed and smiled at me as he ran of the field and I really don't think my brain and neck has been the same since. Handshakes at the end were normal and respectful. All I could think about were those 0s on the clock. I was in the delayed entry program for the USMC and thought that was it. My life would be turned on its head over the next few months. To this day, I will forever have that bond with the brokenness of Craig and Anthony and the city league football that immortalized us, even if it was only in our own minds. Football was our escape.

Craig Aguglia: Bottom Right

Log Clean & Press

200x3 (1 clean 3 press)
200x2 (1 clean 2 pause presses)

*I look really bad this week. Still sore from Saturday which tells me my work capacity is shit. Log was way in front of me and its just bad. This is one of the few OHPs I can do, so I'll just keep pluggin' away.

SS Yoke Bar Squats
* Left knee locked and felt "grabby". Got nervous and acted like a sissy. It started buggin' me on Saturday and this is not a good week to cruise around on crutches again so....
Drop set (20 sec RI)
312x1, 292x1, 272x1, 242x1

Glute Ham Raise
supersetted w Box Jumps
Mini-Band x 10, 5 jumps
Mini-Band & MB x 5, 5 jumps

Ring Rows

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