Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Ex-Con Enjoys Playing for Team Washington High Grad a Receiver with Power

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Ex-Con Enjoys Playing for Team Washington High Grad a Receiver with Power

Article excerpt

Curtis Gardner hopes his 62-yard touchdown reception in the Pittsburgh Power's 56-0 win against the West Virginia Crash on July 24 is the positive start to the rest of his life.

At one time, Gardner reportedly ran a 40-yard dash in less than 4.5 seconds and was on the cusp of starting at receiver for the Washington High School football team.

He came to the Little Prexies in his junior year after growing up in some of Pittsburgh's rougher neighborhoods, then moving in with his aunt and spending two years at Trinity.

He was the third receiver on a Prexies team that advanced to the first round of the WPIAL playoffs.

But that was in 1987. Back when Gardner was a self-described "airhead."

For the next 10 years Gardner was in and out of prison, primarily for non-violent crimes such as auto theft.

"It was fun. You kept doing it until you got caught," Gardner said. "It was like the style. Like Nike Air Jordans are the style, it was fashionable to steal cars for me then."

While in prison Gardner learned two things.

First, that he could make significantly more money out of prison than the baking and gym attendant jobs he worked while incarcerated, where he said he made the whopping sum of 40 cents an hour.

"I thought on the outside I could at least get minimum wage," he said.

Second, he was still a pretty good athlete. He excelled in track on prison teams, whetting his appetite to further his athletic career after his release.

Initially, it was as a youth football coach. He started coaching elementary school players in the Bronson House League, but some parents didn't approve of a convicted felon coaching their children and the organization released him.

At that point, he became associated with Carl Trusser, who now directs the Trinity Recreation League.

"In Washington, you have two school districts. We were all involved at Bronson House," Trusser said. …

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