NEW CASTLE —
Jake DeMedal’s football career is in limbo.
After competing in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie minicamp May 15-18, the Wilmington High and St. Francis University (Loretto, Pa.) product is waiting to hear back from the team if he should report to Latrobe in July for training camp.
“Coach (Mike) Tomlin said they’d review the film and would be in contact with our agents,” DeMedal said. “So now, it’s basically a waiting game for everybody to see where you fall. Right now, I’m staying in shape and lifting.”
DeMedal isn’t just sitting around waiting for the Steelers to call — he’s completing his obligations for a doctorate in physical therapy.
“Early in the process, my agent (Eddie Edwards) told me to continue with my schooling, so I’m still trying to get my doctorate and still going to school for the time being,” said DeMedal, who is a son of New Wilmington residents Bob and Katy DeMedal. “I never wanted to give up what I wanted to do for the rest of my life in anticipation of playing football. I’ve gotten accustomed to balancing academics and athletics this spring, while I was preparing for my pro day.”
After an impressive pro day, DeMedal was invited to the Steelers’ rookie minicamp, which was filled with plenty of meetings and film sessions.
“We’d normally have two practices a day,” he said. “We’d get up, have breakfast and then have position meetings to install the packages we were going to work on that day. Repeat the meetings and film, then another practice. We’d normally go from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.”
Since the Red Flash used a similar defensive system to what the Steelers play, DeMedal’s learning curve wasn’t as steep as some other players.
“At that level, you have to know your assignment and react,” he said. “You can’t be thinking. You have to let it all hang out. It’s all based on reaction. You can’t be a step late. There’s a small learning curve when it comes to the speed of the game, because everyone is quick. All 11 guys on the field are among the fastest at their position. You can’t focus on just one guy.”
The coaching staff didn’t throw the rookies — and some second-year players to the wolves — massive playbooks.
“We were doing it in smaller installments — just the basic blitzes and basic coverages,” DeMedal said. “They threw a lot at us, but they just wanted to see if you could understand it. I played in a similar defense in college, so that was an advantage.”
DeMedal was pretty happy with how he did during his opportunity with the Steelers.
“I thought it went well,” he said. “At that level, not too many people stick out. No one is dominating. Everyone is big and fast. I made a few plays like everyone else. Hopefully, I did enough to catch the coaches’ attention. That’d be big for a guy in my position.
“It was a good experience for me to go out there with the guys they drafted and the other undrafted free agents. Getting to go out there with some of the best athletes in college football was a good experience. It was exciting to do.”
There was little to no wow factor for DeMedal during the early moments of his time with the Steelers.
“As far as players go, I’d say no,” DeMedal said. “But, it was cool to learn from some of the best coaches to ever do it like Coach (Dick) LeBeau. Coach Tomlin conducts himself very well. I never felt like I didn’t belong there. The coaches show you a lot of respect and because of that, I have a lot of respect for them.”
DeMedal was a junior running back/cornerback in 2008 when the Greyhounds captured a PIAA championship. He also lettered on Wilmington’s basketball team.
The 2010 Wilmington graduate finished his collegiate career with 301 tackles, including 72 as a senior in 2013 and earned first-team status on the all-Northeast Conference team for the second-straight season as a senior.
DeMedal, a 6-foot-2, 197-pounder, was a safety for the Red Flash. He placed second on the team in tackles as a senior, with five tackles for loss and a sack. He finished eighth in the conference in tackles.
The Red Flash haven’t had a player compete in the NFL since Joe Restic suited up for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1952.
Former NFL All-Pro offensive lineman Chris Villarrial coached DeMedal during his time at St. Francis. Villarrial played for the Chicago Bears (1996-2004) and the Buffalo Bills (2004-06).
“I have my goals,” DeMedal said. “I want to get my degree in PT. That’s been my goal since I started in college. I never thought I would have the opportunity to play in the NFL. I just don’t see myself playing in Canada or pursuing a career in the CFL if things don’t work out with this summer.
“I’ve had guys tell me that once you’re in the system, they can give you a call at any time. Once training camp starts, there are guys coming in and out all the time. I’m not going to hold my breath, but the opportunity is there I guess.”
NEW CASTLE —
Jake DeMedal’s football career is in limbo.
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