My Town Rocks: Youngstown, Ohio
I could have selected a picture that better represented the city of Youngstown, Ohio for this article, I really could have.
There are so many wonderful things about Youngstown when it comes to sports, but along with that there is a lot of bad. This is probably the reason I selected to put Maurice Clarett at the forefront rather than say, Jim Tressel.
I've repeatedly bashed my hometown to many people in the past. It isn't a great place to live like it used to be. Back when the steel mills were in full force, the city was booming financially.
Over the years, it has become littered with crime, deception, corrupt law enforcement, loss of jobs, and it's now simply suburb to Cleveland and Pittsburgh.
So, when do I actually get to the part about why my town rocks?
In a sports sense, it does rock. In every other sense, I wouldn't suggest ever visiting, but if you do, stay away from the south side.
We've got plenty of towns and townships within Youngstown though. Not bad places to raise a family, but the downtown area is a shell of its former self with the crime rate raising yearly.
One of those places is Warren, Ohio. Warren isn't exactly in Youngstown—it stands alone more than anything because it's located in the neighboring county. Yet, we in Youngstown like to lay claim to Warren anyway.
Warren is a special place for football players as of late. They've sent two young men in Mario Manningham and Prescott Burgess to the University of Michigan and now the NFL. The city also is responsible for late defensive end Korey Stringer of the Minnesota Vikings, who died of a heat stroke in 2001.
Warren G. Harding High School also produced Hall of Fame wide receiver Paul Warfield, who played for the Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns.
Then there is the most famous of them all, Maurice Clarett, criminal extraordinaire. Clarett is from Youngstown, but transferred to Warren G. Harding High School before graduating.
Everyone knows the story of Maurice Clarett. He went from standout freshman at Ohio State University to convicted criminal. He also made stops as a NCAA reject, surprise third round pick of the Denver Broncos and even contemplated a playing career for a local indoor league, fittingly named the "Mahoning Valley Hitmen."
Maurice was born on Youngstown's south side and unfortunately for him, he could never escape the shackles that you are born with from the south side.
A big reason for Clarett's success can and should be attributed to his head coach, Jim Tressel. Tressel is one of Youngstown's pride and joys as a city. Tressel isn't from the area—he grew up in Mentor, Ohio—but Tressel led the beloved Youngstown State Penguins to four division I-AA championships.
The Penguins are loved throughout the area, seeing as they are the sports team that has been around the city the longest. Tressel sparked the program to those four titles and it's something the city will never forget.
Youngstown State has had some good players in the past. They've got two ESPN analysts as former graduates. One is former Notre Dame coach Bob Davie and the other is former Eagles Quarterback Ron Jaworski.
Youngstown as a city also lays claim to another ESPN broadcaster, Paul Maguire.
Probably the most notable graduate is recently retired kicker Jeff Wilkins. Other players to spend time in the NFL include Russell Stuvaints who had a few stints with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Jim Tressel is probably more identifiable for his work with Youngstown State University. But, Youngstown does have a few coaches of it's own that were actually born in the city.
The Stoops family is legendary in this area. Bob and Mike Stoops both hold head coaching jobs in college football for Oklahoma and Arizona respectively. They both hail from the football powerhouse Cardinal Mooney High School.
The Stoops brothers aren't the only coaches to come out of Cardinal Mooney. They've now added Bo Pelini, new head coach of Nebraska, to their list of head coaches in college football.
Cardinal Mooney has churned out plenty of talent as well, especially in this past year. Dan McCarthy is off to play for Notre Dame, while a pair of running back/linebackers in Brandon Beachum and Michael Zordich are headed to Penn State. Zordich is the son of Michael Zordich Sr, who played 12 years in the NFL.
The city of Youngstown and YSU also lays claim to Mark Mangino, head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks.
Youngstown's coaching and playing ties have extended into the NFL now as well. Carolina Panthers' defensive coordinator Mike Trgovac comes from Youngstown and was a defensive lineman at Austintown-Fitch.
One of the more notable NFL players from Youngstown is Jets' receiver Brad Smith, who attended Chaney High School and went on to play Quarterback for Missouri.
Youngstown is also the birth place of fellow NFL receiver David Givens, who didn't play any high school ball in the city.
Probably the most famous Youngstown native to play in the NFL though, is Bernie Kosar, former Cleveland Browns quarterback and current Arena League owner.
Kosar grew up in one of my former towns—Boardman—and played for their High School.
Isaac Smolko, who got to play in a playoff game last year, but was waived by the Jaguars, last month is from Youngstown. I had the privilege of having him as a substitute teacher my senior year at Poland Seminary High School.
If you think that Youngstown's football ties end there, you are mistaken. Youngstown has even had an NFL owner as well.
Edward J. DeBartolo Jr. is the former owner of the San Francisco 49ers. The team is still sort of with the family, as sister Denise York and husband John York now run the franchise.
Yet, Eddie DeBartolo was the guy behind the wheel of all of San Francisco's five Super Bowl Titles. Along for the ride was his right hand man, Carmen Policy, another Youngstown native.
Unfortunately for Policy he also is the center of hatred for many Browns' fans as he was in the front office of the new team when it first started.
DeBatrolo's family also owned the Pittsburgh Penguins until 1991. His sister Denise York was also president of the franchise.
Rumors have surfaced that DeBartolo. He has been rebuilding his estate since his legal issues forced him to cede control of the 49ers in 2000 and may attempt to buy the St. Louis Rams and relocate them back to Los Angeles.
As you can see, Youngstown is a football city. They've had coaches, owners, players in all levels of the game. But their roots extend to other sports as well.
The number of well-known baseball players is very low, but they do have a very well known Major League umpire on their roster.
John Hirschbeck, most famously known for being spit on by former Indians' second baseman Robbie Alomar makes his home in my home area of Poland, Ohio. I attended high school with his kids as well.
The football list is long and the baseball list is very short, but there is one sport that Youngstown prides itself—boxing.
It only makes sense for this city. Two of its more beloved athletes are guys who make or already made their living fighting, in a city that is well known for violence.
The first is former lightweight champion Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini. Mancini retired in 1992 with a record of 29-5, with only six of his wins not coming via the knockout.
Current middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik is probably the more current well known boxer from Youngstown. Pavlik's story is well known as a kid who, like Maurice Clarett, grew up on the city's south side.
Pavlik has yet to be defeated in his professional career, with a record of 34-0. The "Ghost", like Mancini, has knocked out most of his competitors, recording 30 knockouts.
What does this say about Youngstown, a team without a well-known sports team? They've certainly bread and raised many of well-known athletes in the world of sports, but they've got nothing to call their own.
They do in some way. Youngstown is the home of a few minor league franchises for some major sports teams. The oldest is the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, the short-season single A team for the Cleveland Indians.
The Scrappers are in their 10th year of play and have seen many of the current Indian stars in their early days. They are a great watch if you enjoy baseball and want to see a few future Indians play before they become something in the big leagues.
The two newest franchises that have come to the city with the addition of their convocation center, the Chevy Centre, are a hockey team by the name of the Youngstown Steelhounds and an Arena Football 2 team by the name of the Mahoning Valley Thunder.
The Thunder are currently in their second year of play and have quickly become accepted by the city as an exciting group to watch. The Steelhounds have also been surprisingly successful since coming to Youngstown, much due to their success on the ice.
Yet the Steelhounds were released by the Central Hockey League and are currently looking for a league to latch onto. They are an affiliate of the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets.
These small sports franchises are fun to watch and certainly make Youngstown a desirable location.
Youngstown's claim to fame is their long history of football coaches and athletes. It's a tough as nails city, which loves the tough as nails sports. That fits pretty nicely if you ask me.
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