USC’s Huss commits to Duquesne

Published Feb 6, 2014 at 11:24 am (Updated Feb 6, 2014 at 11:24 am)

Duquesne University offered Ben Huss the best of both worlds. So, the 6-2, 275-pound lineman accepted a scholarship to play football for the Dukes. The Upper St. Clair senior committed to the Division 1-AA program, over Youngstown State and Albany.

“Duquesne was the best mixture of academics and football,” said the 17-year-old son of Shelly and Eric Huss during a signing ceremony Feb. 5 on National Letter of Intent Day. “I can get a great degree and play for a good football program all at the same time.”

For the past three years, Huss did just that. He studied in a Blue Ribbon school district and played under the legendary Jim Render.

Huss helped the Panthers to a 32-5 record. During his tenure, USC captured three consecutive conference championships, gained three trips to the Quad-A Final Four and garnered a WPIAL championship appearance at Heinz Field.

While he did not attract the attention of major Division I recruiters, Huss excelled enough to claim all-state honors as well as a spot on the roster for the Big 33 Classic, which features fellow linemen Alex Bookser (6-5, 295) of Mt. Lebanon and Michael Grimm (6-6, 308) from Bethel Park. Both are headed to the University of Pittsburgh. Additionally, Huss garnered all-conference and all-Almanac honors for two consecutive years.

“Football is a size thing,” Huss said with a shrug. Acknowledging his frame, he added, “I can play as well as anybody. Yes, I feel I can excel enough to get to the next level.”

Render concurred to a point. “If you are playing college ball, you have the opportunity to go to the next level,” he said.

Noting the NFL remains always a dream, Huss is well aware a good education will lead to gainful employment. He plans to major in business with an emphasis on marketing. Eventually, he hopes to break into the commercial real estate industry.

Regardless of his future football prospects, Huss said, “I know that one day I have to work and get a job.”

In business or football, Huss possesses the tools to be successful. For starters, he’s a natural athlete. In fact, he owns a 2-handicap in golf and carded a two-under par during his last outing at the Valley Brook Country Club, where he is a member. Huss has been golfing since his grandfather took him to a course at age 5. However, because football was a fall sport, Huss gave up golf.

“Ben’s an excellent all around athlete. One of the best I’ve coached in terms of linemen,” Render said. “For example, he can catch punts. He challenges quarterback throwing the ball in practice.”

According to Render, Duquesne recognized Huss’s athleticism. “ Ben gives Duquesne a lot of options. They want him to learn center and he is athletic enough to do that and be successful.”

While Huss prefers offensive guard, what position he plays matters little to him. “Whatever gets me on the field the fastest,” he explained. He added that though he has never played the position, he is “confident” he can play center for the Dukes, who finished 7-4 overall in 2013.

Because he has played for the winningest coach in WPIAL history, Huss feels he will transition well from USC to Duquesne and from Render to Jerry Schmitt. Learning the plays will be the biggest adjustment, says Huss, but adds that would be “no trouble” because playing for “one of the best coaches in high school history” has prepared him.

“I played for a great leader in Coach Render and Coach Schmitt is a good one, too, so that transition will be easy. Coach Render is hard to play for because he expects the best. He’s smart. He’s driven. He gives his best every day. He’s a great role model. I am going to miss him.”

Huss admits he will miss high school football, too. In his opinion, he said, despite the team’s ups and downs, the Panthers were one of the greatest teams in the WPIAL during his playing career. Of all his highlights, Huss remembers USC’s comeback against North Allegheny in the quarterfinals of the 2013 playoffs. The Panthers trailed by three at halftime and in the third quarter, but recovered to beat the Tigers, 41-23. “I loved the fourth quarter,” he said. “It was the best quarter we ever played. I’ll remember Woodland Hills and the first time we played them because it was too hot, but my favorite memory was the fourth quarter against NA.”

Before he heads off to Duquesne’s training camp in August, Huss plays one more scholastic game. He will play for Pennsylvania when the state’s top players challenge Maryland in the Big 33 Classic at 7:06 p.m. June 14 at Hershey Park Stadium.

While Huss said that the Big 33 game will be a good transition for college, he also acknowledged it will be a great opportunity to play with the best talent and against other Division I players.

“I very excited,” he said of the chance to shine against his peers. “I might be small but I can ball out.”

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