By Cam Huffman
When Shaun Sarrett left Beckley with a degree — and plenty of football and wrestling honors — from Woodrow Wilson High School, he had two dreams in mind. He wanted to play major college football, and he wanted to coach at the highest level.
After a stint at Fork Union Military Academy, Sarrett accomplished goal No. 1 when he competed as a three-year letterman on the offensive line at Kent State University.
After graduating from KSU in 2004, he quickly pursued his other ambition, and when the Pittsburgh Steelers take the field today at O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., to take on the Oakland Raiders, the former Flying Eagle will be in the coaches’ box wearing his black and gold as an offensive assistant for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Now in his second season, Sarrett does a little bit of everything for the Steelers, working to provide offensive coordinator Todd Haley with any assistance he needs. He helps with game preparation, video analysis and scouting, and is available to help out with every aspect of the offense.
“I try to make their job as easy as possible,” he said. “But specifically, I work heavily with the offensive line.”
On game days, Sarrett sits high in the sky, watching specific areas to provide assistance to the other coaches.
“You’ve really got to train your eyes,” he said of those duties. “The ball catches your eye, so you have to really train your eyes to watch the area you need to be watching and not let the ball take your eyes away from that area.”
Sarrett — a Woodrow Wilson Hall of Famer, who’s the son of Flying Eagle basketball and football legend Bane Sarrett and the brother of WWHS wrestling coach Chad “Street” Sarrett — is hopeful that one day he’ll be one of the coaches in charge. His next goal is to become an offensive line coach at the college or professional level. By no means, though, is he eager to leave his current situation.
“I’m thrilled to be here, and I’m not job hunting at all,” said the 34-year-old. “I love working for (Steeler head coach Mike) Tomlin and the Rooneys (the family that owns the Steelers), and if they want to keep me here, I’m staying here.”
Sarrett’s path to the NFL started at Streetsboro High School in Ohio, where he received his first coaching job upon leaving Kent State.
From there, he was given the opportunity to serve as a graduate assistant at Marshall for three years, and he moved on to Duke in 2008, serving as an offensive quality control coach.
It was a connection he made while with the Blue Devils, working under head coach David Cutcliffe, that eventually led to the job with the Steelers. Scottie Montgomery was coaching wide receivers at Duke when he received a call from the Steelers to fill the same role at the professional level in 2010.
Two years into the job, the Steelers had an opening for an offensive assistant, and Montgomery quickly thought back to Sarrett.
Sarrett was called in for an interview, and he didn’t hesitate.
“I jumped right on it,” he remembered. “Who wouldn’t?”
Sarrett remembers sitting in the cafeteria with Tomlin, then-Steelers offensive line coach Sean Kuglar and Steelers defensive coordinator and Pro Football Hall of Famer Dick LeBeau explaining how he could help the team.
“I thought to myself, this is as good as it gets,” said Sarrett of the unique interview. “People dream about being here.”
The dream quickly became a reality, and Sarrett has spent the last two years soaking in as much knowledge as possible.
He keeps a “checklist book” where he writes down things that he wants to do and things that he wants to do differently when he’s the man in charge.
Sarrett said he’s had the opportunity to be around some great coaches — including Tomlin, one of the rare coaches, he said, who understands all aspects of the game.
He’s also learned a few things about how an organization is supposed to be run.
“The Rooneys are first- class across the board in everything they do,” said Sarrett, who’s a believer in the notion that the Steelers are one of the best-run organizations in professional sports. “Anything you can think of, they do it right.”
This year’s Steelers enter today’s game with 2-4 record, but they’ve won two straight and Sarrett hopes they’re returning to the winning ways that have won the franchise a record six Super Bowls.
“We’re going to continue to work to get better,” he said. “These guys are professionals, and they’re working at it every day. They’re going to continue to grow.”
Sarrett will also continue to develop as a coach and pursue his goals, and he hopes he’s set an example for future generations at Woodrow and other area schools that you don’t have to come from a big city to reach the top.
“If you have a dream, don’t let anybody talk you out of it,” he said. “Just keep fighting for it.
“I had a dream to play football at the college level, and I did that. Then I had a dream to be a coach, and here I am coaching in the NFL now. When you have a dream, it doesn’t matter where you come from. It’s just what you’re willing to sacrifice to get to it.”
Today’s Steelers-Raiders game will air on CBS at 4:05 p.m.