When D-1 schools come looking for football talent in the WPIAL, one of their many stops is McKeesport High School. Over the past decade, McKeesport has produced multiple D-1 players each season while contending for the WPIAL 4A Championship.
Now in 5A thanks to the PIAA reclassification, the Tigers are hoping to continue their reign as one of the top programs in the area. One McKeesport star looking to leave his mark in their first season in 5A is Defensive Tackle Curtis Harper.
Harper is a 3-star recruit and holds 18 offers including 16 from D-1 schools (Duquesne and Robert Morris are the non-D-1 schools). He currently ranks as the 42nd best player in the state of Pennsylvania according to 247 Sports. Speaking with Harper yesterday after practice, he seemed more than ready to get the season underway.
“This is a very important season, I’m looking to go out and dominate,” Harper said. “Really looking forward to every game next season especially getting to play Gateway.”
McKeesport has not played rival Gateway High School since 2013 when the Tigers defeated the Gators 49-12. Gateway played the last two seasons in 3A, but will play in McKeesport’s division this year. Harper could be the top defensive linemen in 5A this season, if not the entire WPIAL, according to a former Pitt d-lineman who is taking the NFL by storm.
“Aaron Donald told me I was the best d-linemen in the WPIAL,” Harper revealed yesterday. “It was an honor to hear that from him since I try to model my game after his.”
There are many similarities between Donald and Harper. Donald was a 3-star recruit coming out of Penn Hills although he was a bit lighter than the McKeesport star (Harper is listed at 290 while Donald was 260). On film, you can see Harper use the same strength and quickness off the ball that turned Donald into a household name with the Los Angeles Rams.
Unlike Donald, Harper has yet to be offered by Pitt despite receiving offers from other ACC schools Boston College, Wake Forrest and Syracuse. Harper said he has spoken to Pitt coaches and was invited to attend the Virginia Tech game at Heinz Field this fall.
One school very high on Harper is Iowa State. Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell has always recruited the WPIAL hard dating back to his days at Toledo. And WPIAL players have played a significant role in Campbell’s 35-15 record in four seasons with the Rockets. Harper spoke highly of Campbell in our interview yesterday.
“He is one of the best coaches I have talked [to],” Harper said of Campbell. “He is always checking in with me seeing how I am doing, he does that with a lot of recruits.”
Campbell wasted no time adding a WPIAL player to his first recruiting class with Iowa State, bringing in Harper’s teammate Tymar Sutton. Sutton was a 3-star recruit and was one of the top outside linebackers in the WPIAL last season. In his conservations with Sutton about Iowa State, Harper said Sutton not only praised the coaches but the school itself.
“Tymar told me it is a really good school (Iowa State),” Harper stated. “The coaching staff treats you like family and they know what they are talking about.”
Whether Harper ends up going Iowa State with Sutton or following in the footsteps of Aaron Donald at Pitt, his collegiate coaches will be getting a hardnosed, determined player ready to perform at a high level on a big stage. The future is bright for McKeesport’s Curtis Harper.