Still fighting for yards

By CODY BUPP

jsitler@timesobserver.com

For many, the glory days of football ended on a cold Friday night or Saturday afternoon on a high school field or, better yet, college campus.

There are the very, very few that continue on in the NFL or some type of other professional league. As Mike Singletary once said, “My favorite part of the game is the opportunity to play.”

Matt Deivert is doing that – keeping a love for the game of football alive, with the Pittsburgh Pride.

The Pittsburgh Pride is a semi-professional football team in the Heartland Football League. They play their home games at the North Park Complex, near Wexford, Pa. The league consists of multiple teams from Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.

Players actually pay to play in the league.

“The fee is around $100 to pay for referees, field usage, equipment, etc.” Deivert said.

These guys are out here for two reasons: to use the league as a stepping stone in search of a shot in another league, or; they’re not able to give up the game they love.

For Deivert, it’s a little bit of both.

“I tried out for the Pittsburgh Power of the Arena Football League,” he said. “I made it to the last cut, and the coaches helped get me in contact with the Pride, and it seemed like a good fit with where I’m at in life.”

A track star and running back at Eisenhower High School, then at Division III Allegheny College, he is still showing his athleticism. Deivert lines up in the slot, or backfield, only then to take snaps on the defensive side of the ball as well at corner back.

“I get to flop back and forth,” said Deivert. “I can line up in the slot and play receiver or take a hand off in the backfield.”

He’s seen the speed of the game from all levels. He transfered to Class A Eisenhower in high school after playing class 6A football in Oregon.

“The holes, obviously, close faster from high school to college,” he said. “College and here are pretty close; there’s lots of intensity.

“Many of these guys are playing football all year round,” said Deivert. “Whether they are in the UFL, AFL, or even Canadian league, it’s another shot to get film to hand out.” Just a few weeks ago, Deivert played a team that featured guys that were in NFL training camps.

“It flucuates week to week. Last week we played a team that featured guys that were in NFL training camps and loaded with former D-I talent.”

For Deivert, this opportunity is a way to continue to play while he transitions into working a full-time job and focusing on his career.

“This is a way for me to stay competitive and in shape,” he said. “More importantly, I want to get my career off on the right foot.”

He moved to the Pittsburgh area after graduating with a degree in Managerial Economics from Allegheny and practices two times a week, all while training to be a manager at his job.

“It’s tough,” he said. “Working every day to become a store manager, then heading to practice two days a week. The games are usually on Saturdays.”

So, essentially two full-time jobs for Deivert, but he looks forward to practice and game time.

“It’s a way for me to get away from everything and just focus on football for a few hours.” he said.

The Pride roster features guys of all skill levels and ages, which adds to the uniqueness of semi-pro football, according to Deivert.

“The guys on this team come from all different backgrounds,” he said. ” They continue to teach me lessons of the game, and how to help manage life in general.”

If anyone knows that anything is possible, it’s – much like the spirit of Eisenhower High School athletes – the underdog Deivert, who is already on the smaller side of a football player.

Add to that the fact he’s fortunate enough, or courageous enough, to still play the game he loves.

While playing at Allegheny, he suffered a season-ending Lisfranc injury. He had five screws inserted in his foot.

“I don’t really think about my foot that much,” he said. “You get used to the bruising, but it’s something that I have to live with. I think about it sometimes when I’m fighting for extra yards with guys piling on.”

The circumstances are unique for Deivert, who looks forward to seeing how the next few years will pan out.

“These types of opportunities are what you make of them.” he said.