Last Updated: Tue Oct 04, 2022 - 6:08PM
The run of success that the Derry Area football team enjoyed from 2016 to 2019 will always be remembered fondly in program history. While dozens of players made key contributions to the Trojans during that span, few matched the impact of Justin Huss. Huss, who enjoyed a prolific senior season, is now a valuable member of the Washington & Jefferson College football team. He’s featured in the latest edition of the Westmoreland Alum Q&A.
Huss was a four-year contributor at Derry Area, beginning in his freshman campaign in 2016. That year was a breakthrough season for the Trojans, as they went 11-1 overall, including 7-0 in conference play. Derry Area advanced to the WPIAL Class 3A postseason, and then secured a massive win at home against Central Valley before falling to Aliquippa in the semifinals.
The following season, Huss scored seven touchdowns, as the Trojans posted a mark of 9-2, including 6-1 in the conference. Back in the 3A playoffs, Derry Area fell to Quaker Valley in the quarterfinals to conclude the year.
In 2018, Huss rushed 22 times for 127 yards, caught six passes for 145 yards, and scored four total touchdowns, despite missing time with injury. The Trojans, meanwhile, went 7-1 in conference action, and returned to the WPIAL 3A playoffs. After defeating Central Valley once again, Derry Area scored an unforgettable win against North Catholic to advance to the WPIAL 3A Championship at Heinz Field. The Trojans ultimately came up short to Aliquippa in the title game, however, finishing the season at 11-2.
Huss enjoyed a special senior season in 2019, as he rushed 203 times for 1,995 yards, caught 15 passes for 168 yards, and registered 32 TDs. Additionally, he connected on his only passing attempt, a 14-yard touchdown. His performance earned him All-State accolades. Collectively, the Trojans posted a record of 9-3, including 7-1 in the conference. After edging Beaver Falls, the Trojans fell to Central Valley in the semifinals.
Huss, who also played basketball and track and field at Derry Area, opted to continue his career on the gridiron as a running back at Washington & Jefferson College.
Although the traditional fall season was cancelled in Huss’s freshman season in 2020, an abbreviated spring season was played in 2021 instead. In four games, Huss had 33 carries for 181 yards, caught five passes for 22 yards, and returned one kickoff. The Presidents went 3-1, falling to Westminster College 27-20 in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference (PAC) Championship Game.
Last fall, Huss emerged as a multi-purpose threat, as he rushed 25 times for 254 yards and two scores, hauled in 28 passes for 245 yards and a touchdown, returned 21 kickoffs for an average of 34.6 yards, including two TDs, and also returned two punts for 70 yards total, including another score. For his performance, Huss was recognized as an All-PAC First-Team returner, as well as D3Football.com All-Region 2 Second-Team. W&J, meanwhile, went 7-2 in the PAC, and secured a bowl game. Playing in the ECAC Clayton Chapman Bowl, the Presidents lost to SUNY Brockport to finish at 8-3.
This season, Huss was off to a strong start through four games, as he rushed 47 times for 212 yards and a score, caught 16 passes for 133 yards and two touchdowns, and returned four kickoffs for an average of 22.0 yards. Huss sustained an injury that sidelined him last game, though. Washington & Jefferson has won four of its first five contests, with a 2-1 mark in the conference.
While recovering from his injury, Justin took time to answer questions about his success as a return specialist, the key component of Derry Area’s historic seasons, and what rule he’d change in college football.
Q: You have taken on a bigger role in the running game this season. How have you handled that workload?
A: I think I handled it good up until my injury. It’s nice to know that we have other backs who can also handle the load, like Ray Holmes and Troy Volpatti.
Q: You have received accolades for your performance as a return specialist. What has been key to thriving in that aspect?
A: I just always enjoyed returning kicks in my career. Our coaches always put together a good scheme, so it makes my job a lot easier.
Q: What are your best attributes as a football player?
A: I’d say my best attributes as a player would be my speed and vision; also, being a team player.
Q: What team and individual goals have you set for the 2022 season?
A: My individual goals have changed since my injury. They are now to get back to 100 percent and get ready for next season. As a team, they stayed the same: win a PAC championship and go from there.
Q: W&J's football roster consists of numerous former WPIAL players. Did you have relationships with any of them before college?
A: I knew of some of the WPIAL guys, but didn’t really know them personally. Since I have been here though, I got to know them and the rest of my teammates and I am friends with all of them.
Q: You also previously competed in track at W&J. How did that sport benefit your football career?
A: It really helped with my speed and reaction time, because I was a sprinter.
Q: What led to your decision to attend W&J?
A: When I visited, I just really liked the campus and felt like I connected with the coaching staff well. They also have good academics.
Q: What is your major, and ideal future profession?
A: My major is education, so my ideal future profession would be a teacher and also a football coach.
Q: What has been your favorite college course?
A: I really enjoy the education courses we have to take.
Q: You were part of a historic run at Derry Area. What made those teams so special?
A: We had a number of really good athletes and great coaches, but I believe what made those teams so special was how close we were with everyone on the team. We were a brotherhood.
Q: What was your fondest high school memory?
A: My fondest high school memory athletically would be our home playoff win senior year against Beaver Falls. It was our last home game and it was also an overtime win.
Q: Do you still follow Derry Area athletics or the WPIAL?
A: Yes, I still follow Derry Athletics. Every Friday, I watch the high school team play.
Q: If you could change one rule about college football, what would it be?
A: Pass interference. As an offensive player, it would be nice if that penalty was a spot penalty and not just a 15-yard penalty.
Q: Who is your celebrity dream date?
A: My celebrity dream date would be Megan Fox from the movie Transformers.
Q: What advice would you give yourself as a high school freshman?
A: To continue to work hard in the classroom, in the weight room, and on the field. You’ll deal with hard obstacles, and it’s up to you how you want to respond to them.