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McKeesport's Kinnan Herriot
By Paul Paterra

McKeesport's Kinnan Herriott was nothing more than a bystander as his Tigers opened their 1999 football season.

All he could do was try to offer encouragement to his teammates as they fell to the Ringgold Rams 30-12. He attire included his game jersey, a red baseball cap worn backwards and a brace on his left knee, which holds some torn cartilage and a slight tear in the ACL.

Herriott (6-0, 180) originally suffered the injury during the spring track season and re-aggravated it the week before the Tigers' second scrimmage.

Perhaps Herriott could have been the person to put the clamps on Ringgold running back Jeremy Cole. Cole rushed for 180 yards on 11 carries, and scored four touchdowns against McKeesport.

Three of Coles runs covered long distances. Herriott is a free safety - the last line of defense - known for his hard-hitting style.

Cole turned on the speed and exploded past a pair of safeties for his final touchdown. Herriott usually has his 4.4 speed in McKeesport's secondary.

Herriott's absence was also felt on offense. Both he and starting wingback Ramon Mack (sprained ankle) missed the game against Ringgold, and starting "ace" back Eric Johnson suffered a knee injury early in the contest.

The optimistic view is that Herriott will be available when the Tigers begin Quad East play at Penn Hills, Sept. 17.

"Kinnan's not going to be back for a while," Smith said with despair after Friday's game. "We'll just have to wait and see."

An absence such as Herriott probably would have an effect on any team. After all, this is arguably the best pure athlete in the WPIAL.

Along with his standout football skills, Herriott is an excellent member of the McKeesport basketball and track teams.

He was a key reserve for a McKeesport basketball team that advanced to the WPIAL Quad A quarterfinals last season. He displayed an uncanny outside shot, connecting on 19 of 37 attempts from beyond the three-point arc (51.4 percent).

Herriott also placed second in the triple jump in the Class AAA WPIAL track and field championship, an event he won at the prestigious Baldwin Invitational.

"He's as good as any athlete we've ever had," Smith said. "He's got all the tools.

That's high praise indeed. Smith also coached Penn State All-American candidate Brandon Short and Mike Logan, of the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars.

"He does things better than some of them," Smith said of Herriott. "Some of those kinds might have done things better than him. Overall, he's as good as any of them."

"They don't come around like him that often," added McKeesport basketball coach Dan Pacella. He's a super athlete as good as you'll come across."

Herriott's athletic abilities aren't only attracting attention locally. Street & Smith's College Football magazine called him one of the "Seniors to Watch" in the country.

All of this attention and praise are bound to make someone bigheaded. Not Herriott. "It makes me feel good and it makes me want to work harder," Herriott said.

Herriott also has attracted the attention of several of the nation's Division I football programs as well.

Interest has come from Maryland, Virginia, Toledo, Buffalo, Akron, Vanderbilt, Boston College and Rutgers. They all seem to salivate about his defensive abilities

"We've made a highlight tape," Smith explained. "The biggest thing that jumped out at every coach was his tackling. He hits probably harder than any high school kid around. That really impressed them. He's a big-time hitter and he's got speed and quickness to go with it."

He's also got a great work ethic and a good head on his shoulders. Herriott sports a 3.0 grade point average.

"He takes studying seriously," Smith said. "He sits in the training room in my office and studies."

Herriott is quite aware of the importance of an education. "If you don't do well in the classroom, you aren't going to have any options," Herriott explained. "If you don't have the grades, you can't do anything."

Herriott doesn't expect to make a decision on college until the end of the season. "I'll probably wait and see what I do this year."

Right now, Herriott just wants to get back onto the football field.