Bill Stull Jr. was a standout from the start.
PITTSBURGH -- The boy wanted to play football for the Canfield Little Cardinals. It didn't matter that at age 6 the first-grader was a year too young for the first level of youth football.
Bill Stull called Jim Rousher, the coach listed on the permission slip his son brought home from school.
"He said bring him out for three days, and we'll see how he fits in," Stull said, recalling the conversation from 1993.
"Well, he came home with the coach, and the coach said, 'Mr. and Mrs. Stull, you have a player.'
"And it's been that way ever since."
Now a Panther
Earlier this week, Bill Stull Jr. -- long removed from the boy with the permission slip -- signed his letter of intent to play college football for the University of Pittsburgh.
Stull now is a 6-foot-3-inch, 195-pound quarterback who passed for 3,310 yards and 40 touchdowns in 14 games his senior year at Seton-LaSalle (Pa.) School.
In just two years as a starting varsity quarterback, Stull finished with 5,572 passing yards and 62 touchdowns. He is the third consecutive quarterback from Seton-LaSalle to earn a college scholarship. Before Stull, the school sent Anthony Doria to St. Francis and Bruce Gradkowski to Toledo.
"I probably called Bill Stull the second day on the job," Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt said Wednesday at a press conference. "I believe he was leaning heavily to Kentucky. But with the coaching change here, I told him that if he would take a good look at the University of Pittsburgh, I would love to have him."
At Pittsburgh, Stull expects to redshirt his freshman year and learn from new offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh, a former NFL quarterback and a Youngstown native.
Before Stull became the 11th-best high school senior quarterback in the country as rated by rivals.com, he started with Rousher and youth football.
One of the best
Rousher, who owns Ace Doran Hauling and Rigging, has coached the Canfield Little Cardinals for 16 years. He also coaches the Canfield freshman football team.
He hasn't seen Stull in six years, but remembers him fondly.
"He was an athlete, even at 6 years old he was one of the most fabulous athletes I've seen," said Rousher, 47.
"In my 16 years, he's in the top five of the athletes I've coached."
Stull played for Rousher and then Little Cardinals assistant Tom Rogers for three years. Then he played two seasons with the Austintown Colts. His last season in Ohio, Stull played quarterback for the 1998 Poland Little Bulldogs and took them to that league's Super Bowl and beat the Howland Little Tigers 18-0.
"Their age group was undefeated for six years, and we lost to them in the regular season 6-0," Bill Stull said. "I remember we gave them a little whipping in the Super Bowl."
The Stulls left Poland for Mount Lebanon, Pa., in 1999 when Bill was in sixth grade. His oldest sister, Chris Garcia, lives in Youngstown, but Bill admits that enough time has passed that he's lost touch with friends from his first years in football.
But he remembers begging to play football. And the Poland Little Bulldogs' Super Bowl title.
"I've always loved football; football always came first for me," he said.