Roth writes of journey ‘From PA to LA’

By Greg Trietley

In his autobiography “From PA to LA,” former Pitt football player Yogi Roth reflects on his… In his autobiography “From PA to LA,” former Pitt football player Yogi Roth reflects on his family, his friends, his career as a Panther and his trips across the globe as a nomadic 20-something — from the West Bank to the Fijian jungle to Southern Chile.

Ten years ago, Roth walked onto the Pitt football team as a wide receiver as a freshman. He earned a full scholarship after his sophomore season. After graduation, he moved to Los Angeles to coach at the University of Southern California under Pete Carroll — a move that inspired the title for his book.

Today, Roth, 29, works for ESPN as an analyst and the host of the Elite 11 Quarterback Competition, a national contest for prep athletes that evaluates more than 1,000 quarterbacks. He has also appeared in Comedy Central’s “The Onion Sports Network” and travels the country to speak at universities.

The Pitt News recently spoke with Roth about his family, his book, his career at Pitt and why he walked away from coaching.

The Pitt News: In your book, you talk a lot about your heritage and your family, even including the e-mails you sent to your younger brother when you coached at USC. Could you see yourself where you are today without the support from your family?

Yogi Roth: Not a chance. It was huge. It started with them. Growing up in a family with Holocaust survivors, you realize what true competition was. I’ll never forget it. When you start to have some success as an athlete, to me it was never that big a deal. I was Pennsylvania’s player of the year [in high school], which was awesome, but my first thought was, “There are 49 other states, and there’s a lot of other stuff going on in the world.” I’m a reflection of the community I grew up in.

TPN: You’re now working for ESPN and you did some work with The Onion, which I’ll admit sounds like the coolest job ever. The book leaves off at USC. Are you enjoying your new line of work?

YR: It’s a blast. I know I’m really fortunate. Whatever your vision is, if you chase it and truly believe it’s what you want to do, you’ll accomplish it. That doesn’t mean, “I want to be a millionaire so I’m going to be a millionaire,” but when you set out a vision, there’s nothing you can’t do. When I left coaching, I left it because, first, I didn’t want to leave Los Angeles. I’m really lucky that I’m acting and falling into a couple roles. It’s not about being on ESPN. It’s about the performance of it. The drive to perform is what I need. In acting and in hosting and calling games, I get [to see] more than 12 games a year.

TPN: Have you thought about going back to coaching?

YR: I almost went back — I had a chance to go to a couple schools or the NFL, but I didn’t do it. I get to do the Elite 11 show, where we go around the country, evaluate the top [high school] quarterbacks and choose the top 11 kids to come to LA. When we do the show, I’m not the host necessarily. I get to coach the kids. When I call a game, I feel like I’m coaching the viewer. Now I feel like I know ball better than I ever did because I get to really talk it. I’d love to go coach my dream job, Pitt, but at 25 I wanted to travel and see the world, so that’s why I walked away. In the coaching profession, you’re watching so much film and studying, but you don’t get to speak a lot of it. By covering games in the Big 12 and different conferences, I’m getting to see Colorado, Kansas State — teams that really get creative.

TPN: If you ever want to call a game with a creative offense, new Pitt head coach Todd Graham is talking about running a reverse per quarter.

YR: I can’t wait to watch it. It’ll be interesting. How is it going to do in November in Heinz Field? I don’t know Graham yet, but everything starts from a two-back set. A lot of these teams that run the spread, they run the West Coast Offense in the spread system. I don’t know his intricacies yet, but hopefully they’ll have me around and I can pick their brain a little.

TPN: You were at Pitt for four years, so I have to ask. Is there any restaurant or place in Oakland that you wish you had out West?

YR: First of all, Fuel & Fuddle. I could eat there every day. The cool thing about Pitt, for a kid from the middle of nowhere, to go to a city that size, I got to experience the city and experience the college campus. I was lucky to play ball, where you were there all year. One of my favorite things: guys like Chancellor [Mark] Nordenberg, guys like [athletic director] Steve Pederson, [former athletic director] Jeff Long, [senior associate athletic director] E.J. Borghetti — I still talk to them. The development I went through at that stage of my life, walking onto a football team, how awesome was that? It was so unique and so special. It truly feels like home.