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Where are they now: Gregg Garrity

Friday, December 14, 2001

By Rich Emert, Tri-State Sports & News Service

A weekly check on personalities who played a part in shaping the history of sports in Western Pennsylvania.

Gregg Garrity has always been good with his hands. They earned him a spot as a starting wide receiver for three years at Penn State. They got him onto the cover of Sports Illustrated and kept him in the NFL for seven seasons.

He is still earning a living with his hands as the boss of his own construction company, All Hands on Deck, in Bradford Woods.

"I basically started out just building decks for people, and things just sort of grew from there," said Garrity, 41. "We do a lot of renovations for people, or additions. We do most of the development and the planning.

"We could build a house for somebody, but then you get into purchasing lots and things like that. There are two many spec homes going up in developments these days. Besides, we stay pretty busy with what we are doing."

Garrity graduated from Penn State with a degree in industrial arts and design, so his work isn't something he happened to fall into while playing football.

"No, this is something I always wanted to do," he said. "To see something go from drawing to an addition on a house is very satisfying."

At Penn State and in the NFL, Garrity was a gritty receiver with a knack for getting open and hands that at times seemed saturated with Crazy Glue.

He is perhaps best known for his diving catch of a Todd Blackledge pass for 47 yards and a touchdown in Penn State's 27-23 victory against Georgia in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 1983. That catch got Garrity onto the cover of Sports Illustrated and helped the Nittany Lions win the national championship.

The Steelers then selected Garrity in the fifth round of the NFL draft that year. For a 1979 graduate of North Allegheny High School, it doesn't get any better than playing pro ball for the hometown team.

At 5 feet 10 and 172 pounds, he made the roster and played a season and a half with the Steelers before being traded to the Philadelphia Eagles. Garrity played 5 1/2 years on the other side of the state.

"Anyone who plays at a Division I school thinks about the NFL, but you also know it's such a long shot," he said. "For me, it was amazing because I used to sit there and watch those guys on TV, and here I am playing with them. It was definitely a big thrill for me."

Garrity caught one of the final touchdown passes Terry Bradshaw threw in a game against the Jets on Dec. 10, 1983. The Steelers won, 34-7, and Bradshaw retired after the season because of a sore right elbow.

Did Garrity catch the last touchdown pass Bradshaw threw?

"I was at the Steelers' practice facility the other day, and Tunch [Ilkin] and Craig Wolfley were there. They asked me the same thing," Garrity said, with a laugh. "I don't know if it was or not. You know how Bradshaw is always kidding around? Well, he says the pass he threw to me for a score is the one that shredded his elbow. I don't know if that's true or not.

"My only regret is that I didn't get a chance to play with him when he was in his prime. When I joined the team, he was at the end and his arm was bothering him. But just the way he handled himself in the huddle was something."

With the Eagles, Garrity played for Buddy Ryan and earned a couple of playoff checks. Garrity said he enjoyed playing pro ball in the 1980s, even though teams pass the football a lot more these days and use four and five receivers at a time.

"I get asked a lot if I would have preferred to play in the league these days," he said. "The way the salary structure is today, with a handful of guys making a ton of money and the rest getting what they can, would have been tough for me. The way things are today, I probably would have been a salary-cap casualty."

At North Allegheny, Garrity was a running back and defensive back. He didn't start playing wide receiver until after his freshman year at Penn State. He ended up leading the Nittany Lions in receptions in 1981 with 23 for 415 yards.

"We used to work endlessly on catching-the-ball drills," he said. "That's where I developed my good hands. Those drills just stuck in my head."

When his playing days were done Garrity considered coaching. But his daughter, Samantha, was a year old at the time, and he knew the long hours college and high school coaches endure. That wasn't what he was after.

Coaching, however, might be in his future. Samantha is 11, and he and his wife, Linda, have a son, Gregg Jr., who is 7. Gregg Jr. is interested in playing football next fall.

"He has a heck of an arm, and I don't know where he got that from," Garrity said. "They have the Tiger Pride organization out here that does a good job. He'll be almost 8 next fall, so we may look into it."

And if Gregg Jr. decides to play football, it's a good bet his dad will be there to lend a hand.

If you have any suggestions or candidates for Where Are They Now?, e-mail Rich Emert at emert196@home.com.

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