EVANS CITY — Larry Wendereusz Jr. grew up in a family that viewed sports as more than simply a way to pass the time. That mentality suited him just fine.
And still does.
The 1992 Seneca Valley graduate has been involved in athletics in some capacity for 40 years. Currently the varsity football coach at Slippery Rock High School, Wendereusz earned seven combined letters playing football, basketball and baseball for the Raiders.
“My dad was a very good athlete at Highlands High School. My whole family (brother Mike and sister Nanet), we all got involved. Baseball was the first sport I picked up before migrating to football and basketball.”
Wendereusz will be one of seven individuals inducted into the SV Sports Hall of Fame Sept. 21.
He was a sophomore running back on SV's 1989 grid team that reached the WPIAL Class 3A title game at Three Rivers Stadium. The Raiders came up short in a 17-9 decision to Aliquippa, but remained the only Raider football team to play for a district title in the program's first 52 years.
Certain memories from that season still stand out for Wendereusz.
“The senior class that year, they would beat each other up verbally and physically on the practice field. They knew we were there to work,” he said. “But at the end of the day, they walked out of there as friends. A lot of them are still friends today and that says a lot about them.”
Wendereusz was greatly influenced by two of his mentors on the football field — Terry Henry and Clair Altemus — SV's head coach and defensive coordinator, respectively, during his playing days.
“They both had a different way of motivating players,” Wendereusz said. “Clair was a very fiery and aggressive coach. I think a lot of it came from him being a defensive guy, you want your defense to be aggressive.
“Terry handled the offense. He was also the (athletic director) at Seneca at the time and was so detail-oriented.”
Ironically, both Altemus and Henry will be on hand for the upcoming induction ceremony. Altemus, also a Seneca Valley graduate, is being inducted that night as well while Henry will be presenting Wendereusz.
“I asked him if he would do it and he didn't bat an eye. That meant a lot to me,” said Wendereusz. “I've always admired Terry. When he came to Seneca (in 1984), it was not a top program. To see the work he and his assistants put in to turn things around, I respect that.
“Clair, he used to show up an hour before school started and pitch batting practice in the gym to me and my teammates on the baseball team. And he wasn't even a baseball coach.”
It seems Wendereusz was destined to be a coach himself. He began helping out with his dad's youth football team his freshman year.
“By the time I was a senior, I knew what I wanted my career to be,” he said. “I wanted to teach and coach.”
Wendereusz attended Geneva College, where he played two years as a defensive back. His first varsity football coaching position came as an assistant during Henry's final season at Seneca Valley in 1995. He then moved north to assist Altemus at Grove City High School in 1996. He has also spent time on the coaching staffs at Ellwood City, North Catholic and Geneva, along with several additional stints at his alma mater.
This fall will be his fourth season as head coach at Slippery Rock. All the while, he has tried to impress upon players that being good on the football field is just a small part of what they should strive to be.
“At some point, your football career is going to end,” Wendereusz said. “What are people saying about you: 'There goes an arrogant football player,' or, 'There's a football player who's a really good person.'”
Wendereusz is a former math teacher at Seneca Valley and is now Dean of Students at the district's Ryan Gloyer Middle School. His parents, Larry Sr. and Peggy, still live in Evans City.