Westmoreland Alumni Q&A with Justin Sliwoski

The former Hempfield football standout is a redshirt sophomore at Saint Francis

Tue Nov 16, 2021 - 7:53PM

Sean Meyers Sean Meyers
Hempfield Area's Justin Sliwoski has thrown nine touchdowns and just one interception this season for Saint Francis. (Photo by JD Cavrich)Hempfield Area's Justin Sliwoski has thrown nine touchdowns and just one interception this season for Saint Francis. (Photo by JD Cavrich)

Last Updated: Wed Nov 17, 2021 - 5:28PM

Although Hempfield Area football has struggled to find team success, the Spartans have produced several prolific quarterbacks dating back more than a decade. Perhaps the most accomplished signalcaller was Justin Sliwoski, who walked on with the University of Pittsburgh. Sliwoski has since transferred to Saint Francis University, where he’s become the primary QB for the Red Flash. He’s the featured athlete on the latest installment of the Westmoreland Alum Q&A.

During his first two years at Hempfield Area, Sliwoski played sparingly. As a freshman in 2014, he completed 17-of-27 attempts for 314 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception. Additionally, Sliwoski rushed 13 times for 40 yards and two scores. Collectively, Hempfield Area went 3-6, and missed the WPIAL postseason.

The next year, Sliwoski was limited to just two passing attempts, both completions, for eight yards. He added four rushes for 48 yards and caught a pass, as well. The Spartans went 3-5 in conference play, and earned a playoff berth in Class Quad-A. However, Hempfield Area fell to Woodland Hills in the first round, finishing 3-7 overall.

In his junior campaign, Sliwoski ascended to the starting role, and he posted eye-popping numbers. He connected on 134-of-233 passes for 1,763 yards, with 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. As a runner, he contributed 132 carries for 500 yards, scoring eight times. The Spartans went 5-6 overall, including 4-2 in conference play, but lost to North Allegheny in the WPIAL Class 6A quarterfinals.

As a senior in 2017, Sliwoski missed three games due to injury, but still completed 126-of-223 passes for 1,668 yards, with 19 TDs and eight picks. He added 81 rushes for 197 yards and three touchdowns. The Spartans struggled, however, going just 1-9 and missing the postseason.

For his career, Sliwoski established the Hempfield Area record for career passing yards, passing touchdowns, and completions. Additionally, he competed in basketball, baseball, and track and field.

Following his graduation from Hempfield Area, Sliwoski joined Pitt as a walk-on, and redshirted in 2018.

After one year with the Panthers, he transferred to Saint Francis University (PA), and appeared in eight contests in 2019. During his abbreviated action, Sliwoski was 8-of-11 passing for 47 yards. The Red Flash went 6-6 that season, including 3-4 in the Northeast Conference (NEC).

The 2020 season was cancelled as a result of COVID, however.

With the Red Flash back in action this fall, Sliwoski has appeared in eight games, and has connected on 76-of-119 passes for 911 yards, nine touchdowns, and just one interception. He’s also compiled 36 rushes for 118 yards and a touchdown. With one regular-season contest remaining, the Red Flash have gone 5-5, including 4-2 in the NEC.

Justin took time from his schedule to address questions about what he learned during his season at Pitt, his fondest memory from Hempfield, and which teammate he’d take with him on a deserted island.

Q: How have you evaluated your play this season?

A: I have been very happy with how I have played this season. I try to be a very efficient passer, play clean, and put the team in the best position possible to win each game. I feel I have done all of that this season, and I have felt more comfortable making decisions as the season has progressed.

Q: What has been the biggest area of growth during your time at Saint Francis?

A: My biggest area of growth has been to be able to be on-time with throws and to throw into small windows. This was the biggest adjustment going into college, and the speed of the game increased significantly.

Q: How did you continue to hone your skills with the cancellation of the 2020 season?

A: When the season was cancelled, this really gave me the chance to focus on different aspects of my game that I wouldn’t have been able to do before. This gave all of us extra time to prepare physically, mentally, and we had plenty of practice time. While having the season cancelled was very difficult, I tried to find the positives in the unfortunate situation.

Q: What individual and team goals did you set for 2021?

A: My individual goals for the entire year were to be consistent with my preparation, actions, and being a good teammate. I knew if I accomplished all three of those goals, then I would have a good season and would set myself up for the position I was put into. Our team goal is always to win the conference and win every game.

Q: What were the biggest takeaways from your season at Pitt?

A: There were many takeaways from Pitt that I use on a daily basis; just learning the proper way to watch film, practice with intention, and how to train correctly. Also, from a nutrition standpoint, knowing how to correctly do all of these aspects I will use throughout my life. Playing under coach Whipple and alongside a potential Heisman trophy candidate in Kenny Pickett also set the standard for me as to what it takes to be successful at this level.

Q: What led to your decision to transfer to Saint Francis?

A: I wanted to find a Division I school, as well as a school that offered a PA program, and St. Francis was the perfect fit. I was also looking for a scholarship opportunity coming from Pitt, and everything led me to where I am at now.

Q: What is your major, and ideal future profession?

A: I am a physician assistant major and in the five-year PA program. Ideally, I would want to be a physician assistant in orthopedics with my sports background.

Q: What has been your most enjoyable college class?

A: My most enjoyable college class has been my neurology class for PA school. It’s unbelievable to see how the brain works and how it processes information to the rest of the body.

Q: What was your fondest memory during your time at Hempfield?

A: In my first varsity start as a freshman, I threw a 65-yard touchdown to my brother Ryan on his senior night, and we ended up beating Fox Chapel, which was a playoff team, 56-21. Also, upsetting Mt. Lebanon at home my junior year was an unbelievable game.

Q: What were the best qualities of Spartans football coach Rich Bowen?

A: Since coach Bowen played quarterback, his experiences that he had and teaching style really molded me into the player I am today. He would have me participate in varsity workouts when I was in 7th grade, which started the development process very early.

Q: How did playing other sports in high school benefit you?

A: Playing multiple sports allowed me to become a better athlete overall. I played basketball, baseball, and track in high school. By not just focusing on one specific skill/sport, this gave me the chance to have a wide range of athletic ability that helped me in each of the sports.

Q: If you could change one rule about college football, what would it be?

A: I would change the targeting rule - there should be levels of targeting, and a player shouldn’t get ejected unless it was determined there was intention of going for the head.

Q: Do you prefer water, a sports drink, or something else during football?

A: I only drink water during football. Sports drinks can be too sweet at times.

Q: Who would you choose to portray yourself in a movie?

A: Matthew McConaughey

Q: If you were stranded on an island with one teammate, who would you choose? Why?

A: The one teammate I would choose is our tight end, Dom Clark. He always has my back, on and off the field, and he has been one of my good friends ever since I transferred here.