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The 2013 Spring Grove grad learned a bit more about being a coach at the recent Mason Dixon Linemen Clinic at Delone Catholic High School. (Frank Bodani-York Daily Record)

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Ben Cregger has known what he wants to do for a living since his sophomore year of high school.

It was an unusual choice, if only for its grounding perspective.

He wanted to be a college football coach.

This coming from the standout on the offensive and defensive lines at Spring Grove High. And then a multi-year starter at Division II Kutztown University.  

Maybe you want to play football for a living when you're 15 ... but coach it?

"I had an itch for it. I love football. I knew at some point, football for me as a player would come to an end," Cregger said. "So I thought coaching would be a great way to stay in the game and help kids and teach them. And give them advice I may not have gotten."

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So there was Cregger working the Mason Dixon Linemen Clinic at Delone Catholic a few weeks ago, putting junior high and high schoolers through the skill stations.

Didn't bother him a bit that he was volunteering his services yet again. He did that every summer during college when he helped at Spring Grove and then Hanover high schools.

This past spring, he was a volunteer assistant at Kutztown. Soon, he'll be starting his graduate assistant spot at Misericordia University in Dallas, Pa. There, he'll work on a master's degree — and get to stay on the football field.

"As a coach, when you're able to impact somebody's life in a positive direction I think that outweighs playing," Cregger said. "If they're going down a bad road you can help steer them, not even football-wise, but just from a personality standpoint or if having a tough time at home.

"Them coming to practice or workout can brighten up their day and give them what they need to make it to the next day."

Just look at Pat Flaherty, a mentor of sorts to Cregger. 

Flaherty has done nothing but coach football for a living, now leading the offensive line of the Jacksonville Jaguars. He met Cregger during a scouting stop at Kutztown. When he expressed an interest in coaching, Flaherty invited him to help out at his one-day clinic. 

So Cregger learned a little more that day at Delone as he prepares for his first "real" football job.

Afterward, he and Flaherty talked for a bit, the longtime NFL coach remembering back to those crucial early days as a graduate assistant at Penn State under Joe Paterno and line coach Dick Anderson, when the Lions won a national title.

Flaherty said he was a college freshman when he figured out his own life's calling. He went on to coach in college before jumping to the NFL, where he's spent the past 17 years.

He's won a Super Bowl ring.

And now his son is following in his footsteps.

Shawn Flaherty is only a couple of years older than Cregger and is taking a similar career path.

"If you're getting into coaching and want to do it right, you have to become a GA like Ben's doing," Pat Flaherty said. "So many guys skip it, and I'm telling you it affects them. They don't learn.

"Before you can build a house you got to learn how to put the foundation in. You learn from the ground floor, you're going to learn how to be a good football coach."

Where will Cregger be in 15 years?

He believes he'll still be in football. He sees it as an instrument to do what he's called to.

He laughed about the upcoming long hours and low pay.

"But getting to stay around the sport of football and do something I love for a job and getting to impact the youth of America, I can't complain."

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