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The Next Leechburg Role Model: Pitt’s Braylan Lovelace Continues to Inspire His Hometown



It’s not a Friday night in the WPIAL without the sight of local kids lining the chain-link fences of their high school stadiums to get the best look at the older kids they aspire to be.

It was no different at Leechburg Area High in the fall, with the whole community showing up to Friday home games to watch the Blue Devils.

And as the Friday night games at Veterans Memorial Stadium wore on, the local kids would gather right at the gate leading out onto the field. As the final whistle blew out across the field and the gate swung open, dozens and dozens of kids would stream out onto the field with football and jerseys — and markers.

They weren’t really looking for anyone in particular. Some of them want to re-enact what they just witnessed and some of them want to find the players themselves. As Leechburg Area’s star running back, Braylan Lovelace attracted a lot of attention.

So, of course, he’s signed his fair share of autographs for the local kids. It’s just an honor to have that love and support from the local community.

“A lot of the younger kids look up to me and things like that, they try to model after me, which is really an honor to be a model for those guys,” Lovelace said Thursday at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. “It’s just an honor to be a model for those guys, and for them to see what I do, they can be the next people up to do it.”

Lovelace is truly a role model on and off the field, serving as Leechburg’s first Division I commit since 1993. And while the local kids look up to him now, he’s always had the ability to look up to his father David.

David has been coaching Braylan since he was very young. It makes sense considering David was the last Leechburg football player to make it to the Division I level — committing to Rutgers in 1993.

“It’s a great pride to be able to do what he did coming out of Leechburg,” Lovelace said. “I always have big family support, always have family at the game — my family is always there. My dad’s been coaching me since I was a very young kid, so to be able to do what he did, it’s just an honor.”

And despite David’s time as a Scarlet Knight, it’s always been Pitt for the Lovelace family. They’ve had season tickets since Braylan was just a kid watching Leechburg games himself.

“Pitt’s always been a dream school of mine, from here, watched Pitt games all the time,” Lovelace said. “I’ve always imagined myself in the jersey. Really when I came on my visit here, they brought me in like a family, I wasn’t committed then, I had just got the offer, but all the players and coaches brought me in like family.”

Lovelace is part of the Pitt family officially now, having been on campus for about a month now, and you’d think that being just 45 minutes from the South Side facility would make for a quick transition. But that doesn’t take into account that Leechburg Area is a K-12 building.

What used to be a quick walk down the hallway has turned into traversing hills and dodging oncoming traffic to reach his classroom. But he wouldn’t change a thing. He was ready to start his Pitt career as soon as possible.

Now that he’s arrived, studying marketing in Pitt’s School of Business and hitting the practice field on the South Side, he’s excited to truly focus on being a linebacker.

He was a star running back at Leechburg Area, racking up 2,875 yards and 59 touchdowns over his junior and senior seasons, but his focus is on the defensive side of the ball. He played linebacker in high school and dabbled in safety at the 7-on-7 level, and his focus now is building himself into the best linebacker he can be.

At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, with the ability to add to his frame, Pitt projects Lovelace to either of the outside ‘backer slots. Lovelace points to Bangally Kamara as a comparable.

Kamara, who is about 25 pounds heavier than Lovelace after three seasons in the system, started at Star linebacker in 2022. He’s a player that can slide into either the Star or Money spot in the defense, however, and that’s what Lovelace sees himself being able to do.

Pitt added three linebackers in the class of 2023, which, of course, includes Lovelace, and it’s a trio with high expectations. Lovelace wants to be able to take the next step at the college level and emerge as a stud linebacker.

He has a good role model, too. If he’s learned anything from his father, it’s dedication.

It doesn’t matter where you’re from or what you’ve done, your spot is never secured. So, focus on yourself, come in and grind and be better today than you were yesterday. And if you can do that, you will get better.

It remains to be seen when Lovelace will make an impact on the field at Acrisure Stadium, as Pitt linebackers usually take time to reach the field, but the kids in Leechburg still have a role model to look up to.

And Lovelace continues the family mantle of being a role model for children in the Leechburg area.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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