Before They (Coached) for Pay . . .

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  This story appeared in the fall of 1992, when Sean McDermott was a senior at La Salle High.


McDERMOTT DOES EVERYTHING BUT SIT FOR LA SALLE
The fact that La Salle High franchise Sean McDermott almost never left the football field yesterday led one to ask coach Joe Colistra a question.

Does this kid ever get nicked?

"Maybe shaving," Colistra said. "Not playing football. "

McDermott, a 5-11, 190-pound senior, was the quarterback for the playoff- bound Explorers, who used a 7-6 victory over host Archbishop Wood to secure third place in the Catholic League Northern Division.

McDermott also played safety, did the punting and fielded punts as a single return man. Until two weeks ago, he returned kickoffs.

"Now," he said, "they want me to come off for a quick word with our offensive coordinator. "

Traditionally, Catholic League coaches are extremely reluctant to allow their quarterbacks to start on defense and, even more dangerously, return punts.

"So am I," Colistra admitted. "Some of the other coaches probably laugh at me. I've done some laughing myself (at coaches who have given quarterbacks multiple duties). But you have to be around this kid every day . . . And it's not the first time we've done this. "

Colistra was referring to 1988, when he coached a sensational quarterback/ safety named Jack Stanczak, who wore No. 10.

In the Explorers' first game this season, McDermott's original jersey, No. 28, was ripped off his back. But after Sean performed a Stanczak-like stunt - returning a late-game punt 53 yards to the 3, then running in for the winning touchdown - the equipment man suggested a switch to No. 10.

"It had kind of been retired since Jack Stanczak played," McDermott said. ''He's a legend at La Salle. I'm proud to wear it. I don't know much about his career (Stanczak now plays baseball at Villanova), but I met him once. He's a nice guy. "

So is McDermott - away from competition.

But when football games or wrestling matches are on the line, there's fire in the red-haired McDermott's stomach and eyes.

As a junior, McDermott, who maintains a 3.3 grade-point average and has scored 1,000 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test, went 34-0 at 171 pounds while winning Catholic League and National Prep School championships. Overall, he has won 80 varsity matches counting his freshman and sophomore seasons at North Penn High.

McDermott's wrestling suitors include Virginia, George Mason, Army and Bucknell. For football it's Nebraska, Ohio State, Rutgers and Penn State.

"Sean is always saying how hard wrestling is and how easy football is," Colistra said.

Said McDermott: "It's an oddity to go both ways at La Salle. But wrestling is a big help. It helps me be rugged and aggressive, so I can stick it out for all four quarters. The things I get from wrestling carry over into football. I'm not sure which sport I'll play in college. I'm hoping to get offers for both. Wrestling is strenuous, though. You have to suck a lot of weight to wrestle in college. "

For three quarters yesterday, La Salle was outplayed by the undersized Vikings. But Wood's lead was precarious in that John Finerghty's 1-yard, second-quarter touchdown run had been followed by an unsuccessful kick.

La Salle's scoring drive covered 79 yards in 11 plays. The largest was McDermott's 23-yard bootleg keeper on fourth-and-inches from the La Salle 44. On third-and-5 from the 28, he ran the same play to the right and picked up 10. After Bill Tatar (14 carries, 73 yards) ran 4 yards to the 14, McDermott took a couple of quick steps to his left, faked a handoff to Tatar, turned upfield and scampered into the end zone with 3:03 left in the game. Joel Klock kicked the extra point.

McDermott finished with 10 carries for 38 yards. He went 0-for-5 passing (can't have everything), punted three times for 93 yards, returned four punts for 22 yards, made four tackles (linemen Joe McKenzie and Kevin Conlin had 13 and 11, respectively) and broke up two passes.

The fact that McDermott has performed in similar fashion (or even better) all season led someone to ask Colistra, who's the MVP of the Northern Division?

"It can't be anybody but Sean McDermott," he said.