JACKSON TWP — With their football playing careers now over, Jason Gildon and Tyrell Sales have moved to the other side of the whistle.
Both assistant coaches at Seneca Valley, they are mentoring the team's linebackers.
Gildon's NFL career lasted 11 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers (1994-2003) and Jacksonville Jaguars (2004). He holds the Steelers' career record for sacks with 77.
Sales, a Butler High graduate, played at Penn State from 2004-08, starting at linebacker his junior and senior seasons. His career with the Nittany Lions included playing in the Rose Bowl. He spent time in the Indianapolis Colts' camp and recently played professional football in Canada and Italy.
For Raiders head coach Don Holl, the experience Gildon and Sales bring to the team is invaluable.
“Number one, you know these guys have street credibility because they've walked the walk,” he said. “You automatically know that they will get an attentive ear from the kids.
“They also bring an edge with them,” added Holl. “They expect you to be tough. You can't be too tough in football.”
Carson Kessler starts at linebacker for the Raiders and believes his two new position coaches have helped the group fine tune its game.
“They've helped us focus on the little things,” he said. “We're flying to the ball and keeping our missed tackles down. It's definitely making us better.”
Gildon was a defensive line coach for Peters Township last year, but jumped at the chance to bring his knowledge to Seneca Valley (5-1).
“I live in Wexford, so it was closer to home,” said Gildon, who also coaches SV's tight ends. “I just thought it was a better opportunity.
“I never really thought about coaching much during my playing days,” he added. “But after spending a few years away from the game, I wanted to get back into it.”
Tucker VanDyke joins Kessler as SV's other starting linebacker, but in the team's flexible defense, safeties often play as outside linebackers in which case Jon Dorogy and R.J. McCauley are added to the mix. Mason Dehart, T.J. Holl and Matt Logan are reserves who have also seen playing time at linebacker.
“You can always get better,” Gildon said, “but I like the effort they've shown this season. We've got good kids out there and that helps.”
“I think we've done a good job,” said VanDyke. “It helps that we have good coaches with a ton of experience.”
Gildon acknowledges changes in the way high school defense is played compared to his days as a defensive end in Altus, Okla.
“There's a lot more that goes into playing defense now,” he said. “Back when I played, it was pretty simple.”
For Sales, who also works with SV's running backs, coaching has allowed him to see the game from a different point of view.
“You see a lot more as a coach,” he said. “You notice the way the defensive line is playing and how that affects the linebackers. You watch film in a different scope.”
A former star player at Butler, there was a time when Sales never thought he would be wearing SV's colors.
“I wouldn't have bought it at all,” he said. “But my uncle has worked down here for 15 years and I have good relationships with a lot of the people.
“Seneca is the only other Quad A school in Butler County and I feel good about my experience so far.
“It's been gratifying,” he added. “I've been able to stay involved in football.”