The Wolverines lost that game by a touchdown to the current state finalists from North Allegheny High School, but the Pittsburgh Steelers—the hosts of Heinz—have seen enough in Woody High’s head coach to include him as one of the 2012 Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year nominees.
Coach George Novak has been with Woodland Hills for 26 seasons and has won six WPIAL titles (five at Woody High). He is the first and only director of athletics for the Woodland Hills School District and head coach of the district’s varsity football program.
Novak and the program have produced 10 NFL players: Jason Taylor, Rob Gronkowski, Steve Breaston, Lousaka Polite, Shawntae Spencer, Ryan Mundy, Darrin Walls, Terrence Johnson, Wes Lyons and Monte Simmons.
Novak’s team faced many challenges this past season.
Due to budget cuts and an overall lack of funding, for example, the Wolverines broke tradition and did not travel for training camp. Instead, the team lived in tents for five days at its home stadium—The Wolvarena—and ate meals out of the stadium’s concessions stand.
The setup provided the team’s players with a chance to experience all of the bonding normally done at camp while still staying close to home.
The Wolverines finished the 2012 regular season at 6-2 in AAAA’s ultracompetitive and newly formed Southeastern Conference—good for third place—before winning three straight playoffs game to reach Heinz Field, including back-to-back upsets of Gateway and Upper St. Clair high schools.
Novak sees time spent with the Wolverines as part of a student’s overall high-school experience, with much to gain other than just football skills.
“Football is part of the educational process,” he told Patch in August.
“Every player, we hope, is better prepared to take on the many challenges of life once they leave this football program and prepared to go on and get a better education.
“We hope we’ve touched their lives in a positive way and given them positive experiences to grow from.”
In 2010, when asked by Patch what Novak has taught him, former Woodland Hills running back/defensive back Lafayette Pitts, now with the University of Pittsburgh’s football team, responded, simply, "To be a better person."
All 32 NFL teams were required to nominate one of their local high school football coaches for the national Don Shula award. Current NFL players also could have nominated their former high school football coaches.
The Don Shula award honors coaches who demonstrate a commitment to player health and safety, integrity, achievement, and leadership, as exemplified by Shula, the winningest head coach in NFL history.
Novak is now pitted against the country’s many other nominees.
Should Novak win the national honor, he would also win $10,000 and an all-expenses paid trip to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. And the Woodland Hills High School football program would win $15,000.
Check back with the Forest Hills-Regent Square Patch for updates.