The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

May 18, 2014

FURFARI COLUMN: Ex-WVU defensive line coach visits on Arizona recruiting trip

MORGANTOWN — Bill Kirelawich, who arguably was the greatest defensive line coach in West Virginia University football history, was in Morgantown last weekend.

He stopped for a short visit while on a recruiting trip as a third-year member of Rich Rodriguez’s staff at Arizona.

Kirelawich, who had served from 2003-07 with him at WVU, rejoined Rodriguez at Tucson, Arizona, along with others from WVU, in 2012.

After making his collegiate assistant coaching debut under Frank Cignetti as a part-timer in 1979, the New Castle, Pennsylvania, native was hired by then-WVU head coach Don Nehlen. He remained with the Hall of Famer throughout his distinguished 21-year career.

When Rodriguez succeeded Nehlen in 2001, the university retained Kirelawich in an administrative academic role for two years. Then Rodriguez appointed him to his Mountaineer staff.

From that point on, Kirelawich remained the defensive line coach through that tremendous triumph against favored Clemson in WVU’s 70-33 victory in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 4, 2011.

“Two days later, I left to join Rich and others from here at Arizona,” he recalled with a smile.

Kirelawich also had helped WVU to its equally stunning 48-28 upset of No. 3-ranked Oklahoma on Jan. 2, 2008, in the Fiesta Bowl at Glendale, Arizona.

He then stayed with Bill Stewart for a trio of 9-4 seasons, followed by his one season with rookie head coach Dana Holgorsen in 2011.

In all, Kirelawich filled defensive coaching roles at West Virginia for 29 memorable years. He’ll tell you that he enjoyed every minute of it.

But Kirelawich, who’s 66, admittedly couldn’t be happier that he’s back working with Rich Rodriguez.

He happens to be a graduate of Salem. It was there where he starred as a defensive linebacker and lineman under the tutelage of coaches Ed Pastilong and Donnie Young.

“Bill Kirelawich played with more excitement than any player I ever saw,” Young reportedly stated at that time.

His coaching career actually started in 1970. He served nine years as head coach in football at Cardinal Brennan (Pennsylvania) High School. He was an assistant in basketball, and head coach in baseball.

However, Kirelawich never will forget how much he learned from and enjoyed working those 21 early years with Hall of Famer coach Nehlen.

“He’s absolutely a class guy. It’s amazing how much I learned from him. Not just about X’s and O’s but about how to run a program,” Kirelawich recalled.

“He understood the players, and there was a mutual respect. Coach Nehlen really was special. I loved being a small piece of his program.”

Bill and Maggie Kirelawich have been married for 35 years. They have three children. The oldest is daughter Miki, 33; son Billy, 29; and son Jake, 26.

Billy is assistant director of football operations at Arizona. Jake is an oil and gas engineer for Consol.

There’s also a 6-week-old granddaughter.

“I loved all of my players that I’ve coached, just as I love my family,” Kirelawich said.

Told that his players, despite his tough preparation he admired, admittedly loved him too, he replied “that’s good to hear.”

Highlighting Bill Kirelawich’s coaching career was the fact he tutored the defensive line on the WVU defensive unit that ranked No. 1 in the nation in 1996. Steve Dunlap was the coordinator of that special defense.

 

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