Any kid who plays any kind of sport dreams at some point of playing professionally. That includes Shaun Sarrett.
Football was the sport of choice for the Beckley native. He put in the work and went as far as he could with the game, at least from a playing perspective.
“I started out with the idea of playing (pro) football,” Sarrett said. “You have the goal of playing college football, then you want to try to play in the NFL. But then I realized I wasn’t good enough.”
A career as a pro football player wasn’t in the cards, but that doesn’t mean Sarrett gave up. Which, in essence, was the theme of the morning Saturday at Van Meter Stadium.
Sarrett’s perseverance led him to Pittsburgh, where he is now the offensive line coach for one of the NFL’s most storied franchises. He and others like him served as instructors for the annual Flying Eagle Fundamentals Camp.
Sarrett was joined by fellow Woodrow Wilson graduates Clint Van Horn, Matt Morris and Doug Legursky on their old stomping grounds. Over 70 area youth players took advantage of the unseasonably cool weather to learn not just football fundamentals, but also life lessons.
“We’ve got the slogan, ‘City of Champions,’ and it’s not just about athletics,” said Street Sarrett, Shaun’s big brother and current head football and wrestling coach at Woodrow Wilson. “There’s a bunch of champions in this community who have been good to us since I’ve been the head coach. To give back to this community and bring in professionals like this and former college players for a free camp for the kids (is important). And it’s not just kids from Beckley. We have kids from all over southern West Virginia coming in here to learn the fundamentals of football.”
Those things — how to get in their stances, the proper way to throw and catch the ball and more — were certainly addressed. But more important was the several walking examples of how working hard and not quitting can lead to success.
Shaun Sarrett, a 1997 Woodrow grad, wound up his playing career at Division I Kent State. He naturally wanted to go farther, but once it was evident that was not going to happen he set forth on a goal to remain in the game he loved.
He eventually spent three seasons at Marshall, from 2005-07, under various duties as an assistant. He moved on to Duke, where he spent four seasons as an offense quality control and offensive line assistant coach.
When Duke receivers coach Scottie Montgomery left for the same position with the Steelers, he mentioned Sarrett’s name when a coaching vacancy opened up. Sarrett interviewed and was given the job as an offensive assistant. He held that title for six seasons, then became veteran offensive line coach Mike Munchak’s assistant last season.
Munchak left Pittsburgh in the offseason to fill the same position in Denver, and Sarrett was promoted to replace Munchak in January.
“It’s been a long road, but a winding road at times,” Sarrett said. “I just kept on the path and had a goal. I’ve been lucky to be under some great coaches (by) that point. Mike Munchak, learning under a Hall of Famer has been awesome for me. It really put me on my path, I guess you could say. It gives you confidence when you’re with a guy who has put the uniform on, coached it, did all that. He’s got a gold jacket behind it. It’s just awesome.”
“My brother was a worker. He wasn’t going to get outworked,” Street Sarrett said. “I’m just as proud as I can be of him. ... When he got promoted to be the head offensive line coach, to be a kid from southern West Virginia, that’s just a perfect example. If you show up and work every day and outwork everybody — there’s a guy that’s an NFL coach.”
Sarrett was joined by two of his charges who know a thing or two about perseverance. Steelers linemen Matt Feiler and B.J. Finney were both undrafted — Feiler out of Division II Bloomsburg — but now have NFL starts to their credit.
The tales of success did not end there.
Morris, Van Horn and Legursky all played at Marshall. Morris made an impact as a receiver and now runs his own successful business, Elite Sports Training in Beckley.
Van Horn went on to start as a right tackle for the Thundering Herd and signed as an undrafted free agent with the New Orleans Saints. His playing days are over, but he will enroll in the University of Kentucky’s law school this fall.
“I love doing things like this,” Van Horn said. “Any time that I’m available, especially where I’m not playing ball anymore, I have free time in my summers where I can do things like this, stuff to help coach Sarrett help build the community with the families and other people that join in on this effort. I love this town and I love the people here.”
Legursky started at center for former Marshall coach and Beckley native Bob Pruett. He signed as an undrafted free agent with the Steelers and worked it into an eight-year NFL career. He has a Super Bowl ring and started Super Bowl XLV against Green Bay.
Legursky now has what he calls the “toughest job in the whole world” — stay-at-home dad to his three kids, son Trip, who will turn 7 later this month, 4-year-old daughter Millie and 2-year-old son Tucker. His wife Megan is a mortgage loan officer at Mars Community Bank in Pittsburgh.
“For us to come back and give just a little bit to the community that’s given so much to me and the Sarretts, and for these old teammates of mine to come back and help out just shows how much they appreciate coach Sarrett,” Legursky said. “The least we could do is give up a Saturday. These kids will be thinking about this for the rest of their lives.”
Shaun Sarrett hopes the message that stands out most to the kids is to keep pressing through adversity.
“It’s great for them to see so they can get an idea of, if you have a goal, you can reach your goal,” he said. “Don’t let anybody sit there and tell you can’t do it just because you are from Beckley. I used to hear that — it’s a small town and all that. You can go out into bigger waters and survive. You can.
“I think I’m one to show them, I had this goal and I just went and got it.”
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