Max Schipani is a product of history. His own heritage as well as the prestige of his high school.
As a result, he has become another Division I prospect destined to bring acclaim back to his family and Seton La Salle. See, the 18-year-old senior is bound for the University of Albany.
Greg Gattuso is the head coach at Albany and Jim Sweeney is one of his assistants. Both are SLS graduates that went on to excel at Penn State and Pitt respectively before pursuing NFL careers. Sweeney played several seasons with the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers. Gattuso also served as a head football coach at SLS, guiding the Rebels to a WPIAL title and a PIAA runner-up trophy in 19990.
When Gattuso moved on to the collegiate level, taking the top position at Duquesne University from 1993-2004, his path crossed with Schipani’s grandfather. Patrick J “Fuddy” Schipani played basketball for the Dukes and maintained strong ties with the university before his death Feb. 14, 2019.
“I knew Coach Gattuso when I was younger,” Schipani said, “but when the recruiting process started and I actually met him face to face, I learned of the relationship they (he and my grandfather) had back to Duquesne.”
Schipani also learned there was a connection between Gattuso and his uncle. Pat Schipani played football at Upper St. Clair. The 1982 graduate went on to compete for the University of Pittsburgh, where Gattuso served as an assistant coach from 2005 to 2010.
Additionally, Schipani’s other uncle, Jeff, played football at the University of Cincinnati. Schipani’s father, Brian, followed in Jeff’s path but he finished at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. There he met his wife, Christine, who swam scholastically at Mechanicsburg. The couple settled in Bethel Park and raised two sons, M.J. and Max.
Growing up “Schipani,” Max said is a different mindset. “We’re a big Italian family. It’s a little crazy because we are a little nuts. Whether we are older or younger, we all play sports at family get togethers. We are very competitive but super tight as a family and very sports-minded,” he emphasized.
That focus and history propelled a young Schipani. He said that since age 7, he knew what it meant that his uncles all played Division I football. So he made it his goal, too.
His dream came true in the way of multiple offers. The United States Air Force, Columbia, Cornell and Rhode Island recruited the 6-2, 178-pound safety. However, he selected Albany, recently inking his name to a national letter-of-intent.
“I really liked the campus but I felt that I wasn’t committed enough to that way of life,” Schipani said of the Air Force. He also added that he didn’t want to accrue the debt of the Ivy League schools. “I didn’t want to have to pay for college.”
Albany, however, was the perfect match.
“It felt like the place I fit in best,” said Schipani, who plans to major in business. “I love the location and the coaching staff. Albany is the place where I can grow and become a better person as well as an athlete.”
While he definitely possessed the genes of an athlete, Schipani developed into a football player primarily because of his father. After he completed his playing days, Brian Schipani settled into coaching as well as education as his occupation.
Because he was a quarterback, the elder Schipani groomed his son for that position. In addition to participating in drills with his dad’s teams, Schipani served as an understudy to Levi Metheny. The former Bethel Park quarterback is currently a standout linebacker for Albany.
“My dad taught me how to throw first,” said Schipani, who followed his dad to SLS after his freshman year. “He also encouraged me to try and get to know the players when I was younger so I was a ball boy. I got to know Levi and learn from him. He was a cool dude and I thought it was going to be cool to play that position.”
After starting every game as a sophomore, Schipani “lost interest” in the quarterback spot. He switched to wide receiver his junior year but remained a defensive back.
“Quarterback wasn’t for me and I felt like I needed to play a position where I could flourish and help the team. I was more useful as a wide receiver but I loved defensive back. That’s my favorite position.”
Picking off passes appealed to Schipani. “That’s the best feeling,” he said. Though he didn’t get a single Pick-6 in his career, he did recall his longest return (58 yards) that left him eight yards from the goal line because of a horse collar tackle. Schipani’s personal best and scholastic highlight occurred in a win against Serra Catholic, where he intercepted three passes in the first half.
Because of his background, Schipani believes safety is the best spot for him at Albany. He is training hard to make the transition from high school to Division I football. He is lifting five times a week at school and works on speed and agility with DeWayne Brown at the UPMC facility on the Southside. Brown is best know for training former Pitt All-American and Los Angeles Rams’ defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
“Getting stronger is the area I need to improve in order to make the jump because at the next level they tackle with more force and you have to be able to lay on the bigger hit,” he said. “But, I think one of my big strengths is reading the quarterback and knowing where the ball is going.”
Schipani is going to Albany with simple goals that he hopes blossom into bigger objectives.
“First and foremost, I want to go in and make an impact any way that I can,” he said. “Long-range, I want to help the team win a CAA championship and definitely be one to the top teams in the country.”
Ultimately, Schipani would love a chance to be an elite player in the NCAA and to play in the NFL.
“That’s my dream for sure,” he said. “If you don’t want to work for that goal, I don’t see why you play football. I want to be the best in all I do and I will exhaust all avenues to achieve my goals.”