Local coach receives special honor

Thomas Jefferson High School coaching legend Bill Cherpak is the Steelers' nominee for the Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year.

Cherpak, who was named the Steelers High School Coach of the Year, led Thomas Jefferson to a perfect 16-0 record in 2019, winning the WPIAL and PIAA Class 4A Titles. Cherpak is in his 25th season coaching Thomas Jefferson and has led them to four Pennsylvania State Championships and eight WPIAL titles.

"It really did play out well going undefeated in my 25th season," said Cherpak. "It was an enjoyable season. It was a great group of kids to work with."

This is the second time the Steelers have nominated Cherpak for the prestigious award, and he appreciates the team not just for that, but for everything they do for high school football in Western Pennsylvania.

"There are so many high schools that really have nothing, that they help," said Cherpak. "We look forward to the WPIALs when you are playing at Heinz Field. You know if you win the Steelers are going to invite you to Heinz Field for a game, and the Steelers have their show and are going to come to your games. I don't know if people take it for granted the support the Steelers give the community, but I know the kids appreciate it and it's something not everyone gets to have."

The award isn't just based on wins and losses though, but for character and integrity, leadership, dedication to the community, commitment to player health and safety as well as on-field success, all things Don Shula was known for.

"The thing that is special for me is I am from that era, I saw Coach Shula coach," said Cherpak. "I know how good his teams were. It's special for me because I am part of that generation. I appreciate more the older coaches who have gone before me and the things they have done. It's so much different now than it was back then. I have more appreciation for the guys who established everything, they set the precedent. They were setting the trends, not following them. It's a great honor."

About the Don Shula Award:

All Don Shula Award nominees are invited to attend the 2020 Pro Bowl in Orlando, FL and will be recognized in special ways during the NFL's week-long celebration of football. Throughout the week, coaches will receive VIP access and accommodations at various events such as Pro Bowl practices and the Play Football High School Skills Showdown, a chance to interact and engage with various members of the football community and attend the Pro Bowl. Each coach will also have an opportunity to invite a senior on their roster to participate in the Skills Showdown to represent their high school football community.

Two finalists will each receive $15,000 from the NFL Foundation, $10,000 of which will go to their high school's football program. They will also attend Super Bowl LIV in Miami as special guests of the NFL.

The Don Shula Award winner will be announced during the 2020 Pro Bowl, airing Sunday, Jan. 26 at 3 PM ET on ESPN and ESPN Deportes, and simulcast on ABC and Disney XD – the third time the game will be available on both broadcast and cable networks. The winner will also be recognized and walk the red carpet at NFL Honors, a two-hour primetime awards special to air nationally on February 1 on FOX, the night before Super Bowl LIV.