MORGANTOWN - Chris Haering came all the way from Pueblo, Colo., in the mid-1980s to become one of West Virginia University's greatest linebackers in history.
Now he's among the most successful high school head football coaches in western Pennsylvania. Haering will be in his 17th season as the main man at Mt. Lebanon High in suburban Pittsburgh.
His record for 16 years is 164 victories and 67 losses, all in Class AAAA play. The Blue Devils, who finished 10-1 last season, captured the coveted WPIAL championship in 2000.
"We've had some pretty good players and teams," the modest Haering said in a recent interview. "We've won some good games, and had kids that were driven academically, too."
Two or three of his better teams reached the WPIAL semifinals before bowing. But this 44-year-old coach doesn't like to brag, even though one or two of his players are given Division I college scholarships each year.
Haering, for whom coaching is a dream-come-true, earned a spot on the All-America first team selected by National Enterprise Association as a junior in 1988. That was the first time in history that West Virginia finished 11-0.
The Mountaineers dropped a 34-21 decision to Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl clash for the national champion. Haering also was selected on the 1989 Associated Press All-America third team.
He still ranks No. 7 on the school's all-time career tackles list with 416. He also had five interceptions, five forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
Don Nehlen, WVU's all-time winningest football coach, praised Haering as both an outstanding player in 1986-87-88-89, but also as a high school mentor.
"He's a great young guy," the retired Hall of Famer said. "Chris has done a great job up there, no question about it.
"He is really special and he's highly regarded. We need more guys like Chris Haering."
Here's what veteran Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer Mike White wrote not long ago:
"Mt. Lebanon had just won a big game against North Allegheny, and the jubilant players gathered in the locker room for a post-game cheer.
"Their post-game chant consisted of a few cuss words Coach Haering overheard from the coaches' office. He stormed into the locker room visibly upset.
"'I better never, ever hear anything like that again,'" he yelled at his players. "'Swearing doesn't make you tough. What you do out on the field makes you tough.'"
White said Haering's reaction to that incident epitomized the coach.
"He is a straight-forward, no-nonsense man who believes there is an appropriate way to act, play and coach.
"And at Mt. Lebanon, it's the winning way."
Haering also serves as a civics teacher at the school.
He recalled, "West Virginia was a great place and a great part of my life, no doubt about it. It was a good place to get an education and an even better place to play football."
He praised quarterback Major Harris and other teammates in 1988 and said it was an honor for him to be a major contributor to there team's achievements.
Haering said he certainly enjoyed playing for Nehlen. He called him "a class gentleman and an outstanding coach who ran a first-class program.
"I think the lessons coach Nehlen taught us about football benefited us in our lives as well," Haering said.
Chris and wife Melissa have two children. Daughter Madison is 9 and son Mark is 7.
Haering's father, Chuck, is serving as one of his son's assistant coaches at age 76. He alternates years to help his other son, Mark, who is head coach at South Pueblo High in Colorado.
The elder Haering had coaching roots in Pittsburgh many years ago.