This fall, some Mt. Lebanon residents may be singing Hail to the Redskins. The Apke household will for sure be sporting the burgundy and gold on Sundays. Steven and Susan Apke have watched their son take an incredible journey to the National Football League.
Their son, Troy Apke, a 2014 graduate of Mt. Lebanon High School, was selected by the Washington Redskins with the 109th pick in the fourth round of the NFL draft this past weekend.
“That’s about where I thought he was going to be drafted,” said Mt. Lebanon High School football head coach Mike Melnyk. “I was really happy about him going to Washington and it will be great for his family being so close.”
Melnyk saw his talent during his tenure on the high school team. Apke starred for the Blue Devils as a wide receiver and defensive back. Off the gridiron, he was a standout on the track team, winning the WPIAL 100-meter title in 2014.
“We were a small part to help him get to his goals,” said Melnyk. “Troy was blessed with gifts and was able to develop those. Now all of that hard work’s paying off.”
Those skills attracted the attention of Penn State head football coach James Franklin, who recruited him to play for the Nittany Lions. Apke worked his way up the Penn State roster, beginning as a special teams player and becoming one of the team leaders in tackles this past season with 55 stops.
“We couldn’t be happier for Troy to hear his name called during the NFL draft,” said Franklin. “He was a guy who contributed for us on special teams early in his career, but really took advantage of his opportunities when they came around on defense.”
After Penn State, Apke was invited to participate at the 2018 NFL Combine in Indianapolis. He gained much attention by running a blazing 4.35 40-yard dash. Even more hype swirled when NFL Network analyst and Hall of Famer Deion Sanders made a fuss about Apke on the LIVE broadcast of the draft.
“He can run,” said Sanders. “I like that man. Let me go hug him. I’m going to hug him. That was unbelievable right there. I’m going to draft him.”
That performance helped get more eyes on Apke as the draft approached.
“As you saw at the NFL Combine, he has tremendous speed and agility and we believe he will be a great contributor for the Redskins,” said Franklin.
His new coach at the pro ranks is also excited to have him. Redskins head coach Jay Gruden believes he can make an immediate impact and was drafted for a few reasons.
“I think the sky’s the limit for him as a player,” said Gruden. “He takes good angles to the football and he’s not afraid. And he’s great on special teams, so it was a win-win not only as a safety, but as a special teams player. I think he’ll fit right in.”
An amazing journey indeed and it all brings a big smile to his former Blue Devils coach.
“He and I texted this weekend,” said Melnyk. “I wished him luck. I’m just so happy for him.”