Harper Honored Again

CSP Head Coach In Running For Shula NFL?High School COY

Clymer/Sherman/Panama head football coach Ty Harper hoists the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class D championship plaque over his head following the Wolfpack’s victory at the Carrier Dome in November. P-J photo by Alex Shipherd

Ty Harper received official word three weeks ago, but with all the attention the Clymer/Sherman/Panama football team has garnered since Thanksgiving weekend, the Wolfpack head coach was praying the news would be kept hush-hush.

“I was hoping people wouldn’t make a big deal of it,” he said, “but here we are again.”

Where Harper finds himself, in fact, is among 32 high school football coaches across the country who are in the running for the Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year Award.

The nominees were recognized by their local NFL team — the Buffalo Bills, in Harper’s case — for their “character and integrity, leadership, dedication to the community, commitment to player health and safety, and on-field success,” according to a press release issued by the NFL on Wednesday.

“We are honored to celebrate the 32 Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year nominees, as each embodies the integrity, commitment and character of Coach Shula,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in the press release. “High school football coaches not only serve as leaders, but as role models dedicated to shaping the lives of young high school players, on and off the field.”

Harper, who was notified of his nomination in the run-up to Clymer/Sherman/Panama being recognized at the Bills’ game at New Era Field on Dec. 16, admitted he was in “disbelief.”

“It’s surreal,” he said. “To go along with everything else from this season, it’s just one more thing. I can’t believe it.”

According to the press release, all nominees will be invited to attend the Pro Bowl in Orlando, Florida 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, including Pro Bowl practices, the Play Football High School Skills Showdown and Play Football Celebrity flag game; a chance to interact and engage with various members of the football community; and attend the Pro Bowl.

Two finalists will each receive $15,000 from the NFL Foundation, $10,000 of which will go their high school’s football program. They will also attend Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta as special guest of the NFL. The Don Shula Award winner will be announced during the Pro Bowl, which will air Sunday, Jan. 27 at 3 p.m. on ESPN and simulcast on ABC. The winner will also be recognized and walk the red carpet at NFL Honors, a two-hour prime-time awards special to air nationally on Saturday, Feb. 2, the eve of Super Bowl LII, at 9 p.m. on CBS.

Among the panelists who select the Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year are Shula, the winningest coach in NFL history; Gil Brandt, former Dallas Cowboys personnel director and NFL.com contributor; Tony Dungy, Pro Football Hall of Fame coach and current NBC analyst; Willie McGinest, three-time Super Bowl champion; Rod Woodson, Pro Football Hall of Famer and Super Bowl XXXV champion; and former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, now a senior fellow on public policy at the Hoover Institution and faculty member at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.

“There are so many people who make what we do (with the Clymer/Sherman/Panama football program) possible,” said Harper, who was named The Post-Journal Coach of the Year last Sunday.

Asked what he would do should he be fortunate to win the award and the accompanying financial windfall for the Wolfpack program, Harper was almost at a loss for words.

“Can you imagine something like that? Oh, my goodness,” he said.