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Three-time Super Bowl Champion Named Next RMU Football Coach

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Pittsburgh -- Robert Morris University Director of Athletics Craig Coleman announced today that RMU Assistant Head Football Coach John Banaszak has been named the program's coach-in-waiting.

Banaszak, who has spent the last nine years as an assistant coach and assistant head coach with the Colonials, will take over for current head coach Joe Walton at the conclusion of the 2013 season.

Walton signed a two-year contract extension in September of 2011 that will take him through the 2013 campaign, which will be his 20th season as the inaugural head coach of a program that began play in 1994.

"Coach Walton has done a tremendous job starting the program from scratch and developing it to its current level," Coleman said. "We are blessed to have another outstanding coach on our staff in Coach Banaszak to provide leadership and excellence when Walton retires."

banaszakmugThe 2011 season marked Banaszak's ninth season as a member of the Robert Morris football coach staff, including his fourth campaign as assistant head coach. Among his many duties with the program, Banaszak is responsible for tutoring the defensive line and the special teams unit.

"I'm extremely excited to be named the coach-in-waiting of the Robert Morris University football program," Banaszak said. "Over the next two years, I plan on working hand-in-hand with head coach Joe Walton in continuing to build this program so it competes for Northeast Conference championships. Upon taking over the program, the emphasis won't be any different than what's it's been since the beginning, which is developing the total student-athlete."

During Banaszak's nine years at Robert Morris, the Colonials have led the Northeast Conference in total defense four times (2004, 2006, 2009 and 2010) and have finished in the top five in the league on eight occasions.

Banaszak was a key component to a 2010 defense that led the NEC in total defense, allowing an average of 312.6 yards per game, and coaching a defensive line that recorded 13 of RMU's 21 sacks as the Colonials claimed the NEC's inaugural berth in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Playoffs.

In 2006, Banaszak helped tutor an RMU defense that led I-AA (now the Football Championship Subdivision) in total defense, allowing an average of just 228.36 yards per game.

Under Banaszak's guidance, former defensive lineman Ray Gensler (2003-06) tied the RMU single-season school record for sacks with 11 in 2006 en route to earning All-NEC First Team honors. Gensler also established a career record in sacks with 19 thanks to 11 in 2006, and the Robert Morris defensive line that season recorded 28 and-a-half of RMU's school record 34 sacks.

Eight of the 11 players in school history to earn All-NEC recognition on the defensive line have come under the tutelage of Banaszak, including Nolan Nearhoof, who led the Colonials with seven and-a-half sacks last year en route to being named to the 2011 All-NEC First Team. Nearhoof will enter his final season of eligibility in 2012 with 16 career sacks, just four away from breaking Gensler's record.

Former defensive linemen Jason Forrest (2002-05) and Mark Szymanski (2007-10) earned multiple All-NEC honors with the guidance of Banaszak, as Forrest was a three-time All-NEC selection and Szymanski garnered All-NEC accolades twice.

In addition, also earning All-NEC honors on the defensive line with the help of Banaszak were Will Weathers (2003), Babafemi Odumeru (2004), Matt Brunck (2006) and Colyn Haugh (2006).

As much as Banaszak's presence has been felt on the defensive side of the ball, the same can be said on special teams. Under his leadership, former Colonials Dante Settles (2000-04), Tyjuan Massey (2002-05), Mario Hines (2004-07) and Anthony Coleman (2008-11) garnered All-NEC honors at return specialist, the first players in RMU history to earn such a distinction.

Former punter Nick Schirztinger (2007-10) also thrived under the tutelage of Banaszak, as he finished his career last year as arguably RMU's greatest punter ever. Schirtzinger owns Colonial career records for punts (230), punting yards (9,290) and average yards per punt (40.4) and also owns four of the top five marks in the RMU single-season record book for punting yards.

Prior to RMU, Banaszak served as the 30th head coach in Washington & Jefferson football history, leading the Presidents to a record of 38-9 (.809) in his four seasons on the sidelines between 1999 and 2002. In each of those four campaigns, he was named the Presidents' Athletic Conference Coach of the Year and ranks third on the college's all-time victory list.

A 1975 graduate of Eastern Michigan with a bachelor's degree in health, physical education and recreation, Banaszak signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Steelers prior to the 1975 season and was one of only three rookies to make the defending Super Bowl champion team out of training camp.

Primarily a special teams player on Pittsburgh's Super Bowl X championship team, Banaszak started five games the following season and then started at both right end and inside tackle in 1977 before suffering a knee injury that forced him to the injured reserve list.

Between 1978 and 1980, Banaszak started 45 regular-season games at defensive end as the Steelers won back-to-back Super Bowl championships. In Super Bowl XIII, Banaszak recorded six tackles, including a pair of sacks, and a fumble recovery in a 35-31 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, which garnered him Defensive Player of the Game honors. The following year in Super Bowl XIV, Banaszak finished with five tackles and a sack in a 31-19 victory over the Los Angeles Rams.

Upon completion of his stint with the Steelers, Banaszak spent the 1983 and 1984 seasons with the Michigan Panthers of the USFL. He then moved on to serve as a player/coach with the Memphis Showboats, also of the USFL, in 1985. While with the Showboats, Banaszak mentored former NFL standout Reggie White.

Banaszak and his wife, Mary, have three children and five grandchildren. They reside in McMurray, Pa.


Who: John Arthur Banaszak

Born: August 24, 1950 (Cleveland, Ohio)

Residence: McMurray, Pa.

Wife: Mary (40 Years)

Son: Jay (38)

Daughters: Carrie (33), Amye (33)

Grandchildren: Emma (6), Jack (6), Abby (3), John (2), Mia (9 months)

Alma Mater (Year): Eastern Michigan (1975)

Degree: Health, Physical Education & Recreation

High School: Holy Name


Robert Morris University; Moon Township, Pa.

- Assistant Head Coach (2008- )

Robert Morris University; Moon Township, Pa.

- Assistant Coach (2003-08)

Washington & Jefferson College; Washington, Pa.

- Head Coach (1999-2002)


Pittsburgh Steelers (NFL)

- Defensive Line (1975-81)

- Three-time Super Bowl Champion (X, XIII, XIV)

Michigan Panters (USFL)

- Defensive Line (1983-84)

Memphis Showboats (USFL)

- Defensive Line (1985)

Robert Morris University, founded in 1921, is a private, four-year institution with an enrollment of approximately 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The university offers 60 undergraduate and 20 graduate programs. An estimated 22,000 alumni live and work in western Pennsylvania.