For 65 years, Jim Render has been going to football practice. Come August, however, he’ll break that habit because the WPIAL legend tendered his letter of resignation as Upper St. Clair varsity football coach. School officials announced Render’s retirement Thursday.
“When you have been doing something since seventh grade,” Render said, “sure, there’s going to be a lot of things you’ll miss. But what I’ll miss the most? That’s an easy answer.
“I have had great, great players and great kids. Whether they were great players or not, they have all been great kids. I have been very blessed.
“It’s been a privilege,” Render continued of serving as USC head football coach for 40 years. During that time, he noted the school district’s program has achieved great success. “And,” he added proudly, “that many young men have gone on to have outstanding collegiate careers as well as remarkable success in their chosen professions.”
Under Render’s leadership, the Panthers advanced to the WPIAL playoffs 38 times. They captured 23 conference titles, five WPIAL championships and two PIAA crowns. While some of his players have played professionally – for example, Sean Lee for the Dallas Cowboys and Kevin Orie for the Chicago Cubs – many received outstanding degrees from Ivy League schools or other exceptional universities.
Render noted that is just as memorable to him as beating the Kerry Collins-quarterbacked team from Wilson in the 1989 state final or Bethlehem Liberty, 47-13, in the 2006 PIAA championship in Hershey.
“I don’t know if there is one moment that is most memorable,” he said. “It’s more like the fact I could name you wonderful players and people from every team that I have had who have gone on to be doctors, lawyers, financial wizards. Just general successes in life,” he added.
During his 76 years, Render, has experienced overwhelming success. The only WPIAL football coach to reach 400 victories, Render was inducted into the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Hall of Fame in 1998 and the Western Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 2005. In addition, he was recognized with the Lou Holtz Upper Ohio Valley Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013.
Most recently, he was nominated by the Pittsburgh Steelers for the 2018 Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year Award, which honors scholastic coaches who display the integrity, achievement, and leadership exemplified by the winningest coach in NFL history, Don Shula.
Each nominated coach will receive a trip to the Pro Bowl to be held Jan. 27 in Orlando and attend the game. From the poll of nominees, a blue-ribbon panel, will select two finalist who will then travel to Atlanta and attend an all-expense paid trip to Super Bowl LIII.
Amazingly that’s something Render has never done.
“I have not been to a Super Bowl. I wish though I would have gone when the Steelers played their first one but back then the game was played closer to the holidays and that’s always been a busy time,” said Render.
These days are an even busier time as Render and his wife, Pam, are grandparents. Render had two sons, J.T. and Eric, both of whom played for him.
Render’s kin, however, extends beyond his immediate family and well into the community. When the announcement of his retirement was made, school officials rallied to praise his commitment to the program.
“Coach Render has built a highly successful high school football program here in Upper St. Clair, winning numerous titles and accolades,” Dr. John T. Rozzo, superintendent of schools, said. “We are grateful for his many years of service to the District.”
“Coach Render has had a great impact on our football program and on the Upper St. Clair community over the years,” added Amy Billerbeck, school board president. “We commend Jim on his achievements and wish him all the best in his retirement.”
In retirement, Render has plenty of options. He can now take that trip to the Amalfi Coast he once promised his wife, pay his respects at Pearl Harbor, take a chance on a horse or two at Saratoga or Del Mar race tracks or perhaps attend another Rose Bowl.
“There are a lot of things out there other than first-and-10,” he said. “Maybe I will find one.”
Render though has found peace with himself and his career. He is leaving the game his way unlike some of his cherished role models like Woody Hayes who coached the Buckeyes and Chuck Noll, who lived right down the street from Render’s Carrollton High School, or even his friend Joe Paterno.
“I have had a pretty good relationship with Joe. His plusses are greater than any of his negatives in life. I also grew up in Ohio so I got to know Woody and Chuck, too. Woody and Joe did not get to go on their own terms.
“That’s another reason for my retirement. I wanted to leave on my terms. I factored in and weighed a lot of things and I think after 55 years overall, 40 of them here at USC, it was time for me to walk out and see what else is out there in the world.”