Rader trying to stick in the NFL
Even though his name is firmly etched in Youngstown State University’s football lore, Kevin Rader knows that what he has done in the past will have little bearing on whether or not he makes the Pittsburgh Steelers this year.
With just seconds remaining in the 2016 national semifinal game, YSU was seemingly down to their last play when quarterback Hunter Wells took the snap from center. Wells quickly found Rader in the back of the end zone and fired the ball in his direction. The problem was, there was an Eastern Washington University defender between Rader and the ball.
Miraculously, Rader was able to reach around and pin the ball against the defender’s back with his right hand. As they tumbled to the turf, Rader reached his left arm around the other side of the defender to secure the ball, resulting in an apparent game-winning touchdown.
A replay review confirmed the call on the field, provided YSU with a 40-38 win and a berth in the national championship game.
“That play didn’t really hit me until, I would say, about two days after,” Rader said. “The whole team was going nuts. It was pretty cool. We didn’t sleep much on the plane ride back to Pittsburgh. I had an interview at about 10 or 11 a.m. with ESPN. I finally got some rest after that. It finally started to soak in. Then, I had to forget about it, because we had another game.”
Rader realizes that he has to do his best every time he steps on the field if he is to achieve his goal of making the Steelers.
“I can’t let up, even for a play,” said Rader. “I have to be ready and able to execute.
Currently, there are six tight ends on the Steelers roster. In the past, they have kept at least three tight ends, sometimes four, on the 53-man roster, with another one on the practice squad.
Rader was a two-year starter at tight end at Youngstown State before signing with the Green Bay Packers in the spring of 2018. He was released in the final round of cuts just before the start of the 2018 regular season.
A Pine-Richland graduate, Rader explained how he signed with Pittsburgh, saying, “When I came home from Green Bay, I didn’t know who was going to be contacting me. Honestly, I didn’t get many reps in the in the preseason games. I knew that was going to affect me, because they like to see film. I was home just working out, like I was before coming to the NFL, keeping my body in shape. My agent found me a number of options, but I grew up in Pittsburgh. I signed with the Steelers shortly after the 2018 season ended. I am excited to have the opportunity to be here.”
Pine-Richland High School is in Gibsonia, which is in the northern part of Allegheny County, east of Cranberry.
Rader knows that just being in the Steelers camp may get him a shot with another team if he doesn’t make the Steelers. It worked for former YSU teammate Damoun Patterson.
After being released by the Steelers in 2018’s final cuts, Patterson spent time on Tampa Bay’s practice squad before being released on November 6. New England moved in quickly, signing Patterson on November 9. He remained on their practice squad through their Super Bowl victory. Patterson is on New England’s current roster.
Many times, it just comes down to numbers, injuries and being in the right place at the right time. Rader knows all about being in the right place at the right time and making “The Catch”.
Two weeks ago, left offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva received his MBA from Carnegie Mellon University. That follows earning an undergraduate degree in systems engineering from the United States Military Academy.
HIGH SCHOOL COACH
Former Steelers wide receiver Derek Moye (2012-2014) is entering his first year as head coach at Western Beaver High School. The third all-time leading receiver in Penn State history, Moye was an assistant at Aliquippa in 2018 as the Quips won their first state title since 2003.