Thursday, September 16, 2010

Legends of the Fall, Chapter 6

Scan the early eras of Pittsburgh Steelers football and one name which regularly pops up is Valerio "Val" Jansante.

A graduate of Bentleyville High School, Jansante was a multi-sport standout. As a senior, Jansante won the Mid-Mon Valley Award, given to that talent-rich area's top high school athlete.

Jansante caught the attention of Duquesne University, then a national power in college football and he was part of the Dukes' undefeated 1941 team. In 1946, after a stint in the Navy during World War II, Jansante joined the Pittsburgh Steelers, who drafted him in the 10th round of the 1944 draft, and instantly became a two-way starter.

Before Hines Ward, Jansante was the only Steelers player to lead the team in receptions for five consecutive years, which he did from 1946-50. In 1947, he set Steelers records with 35 catches for 599 yards and five touchdowns and led the team to their first playoff appearance. He bacame the first Steelers player to have 10 catches in a game. He was a dominant defensive end and led the NFL with 8.5 quarterback sacks in 1950, before sacks became an official stat.

Jansante, who was traded to Green Bay six games into the 1951 season, was even a first-team All-Pro one season and a second-teamer in another. He caught 14 touchdowns from 1946-51. In 2007, Jansante was one of six receivers on the ballot for the Steelers' 75th anniversary team.

He went on to coach football at Pittsburgh Central Catholic, Mon Valley Catholic and Bentworth. He also coached baseball, boys basketball and girls basketball and is in numerous halls of fame.

The Jansante coaching legacy remains a part of Bentworth, where Dion Jansante has served as the Bearcats' baseball coach for more than 20 years.
Jansante died Oct. 1, 2008 at the age of 88. True to his roots, he died in Bentleyville.

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