Former Robert Morris Assistant Donnie Militzer Reflects on Coaching Journey


Militzer as OLSH head coach Photo credit: Barry Reeger/Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Ethan Morrison

Throughout Donnie Militzer’s coaching career, it has been a long journey to where he is at today as the head coach at Our Lady of Sacred Heart.

While he serves as the new head coach at OLSH, one place he will always cherish is Robert Morris University.

After 14 years from the program, he returned to his alma mater as the Quality Control Coach on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball from 2018-21.

“It was amazing to be back at Robert Morris,” Militzer said. “I loved every second of it working with coach [Bernard] Clark. I had always dreamed of coaching at the Division I level, so I got to do that and to also get to do it at your alma mater was pretty special.”

At Robert Morris, Militzer got an opportunity to coach under Bernard Clark. He took a lot away from coaching with one of the more prominent coaches in Colonial football history with Clark’s rich football background and ability to lead his team both on and off the field.

“The guy just has a great passion for the game,” Militzer said. “More importantly, he just doesn’t have passion for the game, but he has a passion for people. He wants to bring the best out of his players and the best out of his kids and cares about his coaches, so everything that he does, he does with passion, and I learned a lot from that while also how to navigate young men through everything and not just football-wise but through whatever they are going through.”

Militzer had the opportunity to work on both sides of the football in his time with the Colonials, and for Clark, that made him such a massive asset to the team and his coaching staff.

“Militzer brought a sense of organization,” Clark said. “Militzer was a high school head coach before he came to us, so he had that background, so I leaned on him for a couple of things to get different areas ready. The great thing about him was that he could coach wherever I put him at. So if I had him at tight ends, he knew what he was doing. If I had him at o-line, he knew what he was doing. He was one of those guys that, since he coached in high school, worked with every position. It was a huge plus for us.”

Throughout his time with the Robert Morris program, he was able to coach and teach his players how to be better communicators and leaders on and off the field. He was a huge inspiration to senior defensive lineman Dante Boudy.

“Coach Donnie [Militzer] was a huge inspiration to me. He taught me how to be a great leader and especially with the younger guys with how to communicate and be a better role model for the community.”

Boudy was not the only player impacted by Militzer at RMU as red-shirt junior defensive lineman Ricardo Watson also took away advice from the former offensive and defensive quality control coach.

“He taught me how to be a leader and take the extra step to be a role model to the younger guys and the people who looked up to me,” Watson said.

But after the 2021 season concluded, the former head coach for OLSH, Dan Bradley, stepped down from his position with the Chargers to become the next head coach at Ellwood City. That left a vacant hole just a few minutes down the street at OLSH and it was an opportunity Militzer could not pass up.

“I had no intentions of leaving Robert Morris. I still have a very large piece of me there with that program. But when the OLSH job came up, I was a catholic school principal for 12 years and worked in the catholic school system for 15 years, so something just called me to it, and it was one of the only jobs that I would have gone back to high school for. It was such a tough decision because of how much I loved Robert Morris, but there will always be a piece of me there.”

Militzer would have never gotten the opportunity to coach and return to his alma mater if it was not for injuries that derailed his playing career in college. Along with that, a legendary head coach in the Robert Morris program pushed him in the right direction to kickstart his coaching career.

“I got dinged up in spring practice and after that, I sat down with coach [Joe] Walton, who was a great mentor to me and he said that I had a great mind for football and asked if I wanted to coach and we talked about possibly being a student assistant and then he had connections in high school, so he got me connected with a couple of high school coaches as well and with my family connections and his connections I was able to land a coaching position with Bishop Canevin in 2002.”

Being under the tutelage of Walton for a season was invaluable to Militzer. He took away advice from the longtime coach at Robert Morris that has molded him into the coach that he is today, including showing up, working hard and always listening to the people around him.

Walton was a major influence in how Militzer got his coaching career started, but it was also from picking up on different tips along the way before his college days that set him up for success later on in his career.

Militzer as an member of the coaching staff at Robert Morris (Photo by Donnie Militzer)

“Coach [Joe Walton] was an influence, but what really influenced me was back in high school when I went to Keystone Oaks. Throughout my four years at Keystone Oaks, we had three coaches, so I really got to learn different styles and they were all definitely a lot of different offenses and defenses and it showed me there that it was something that I wanted to pursue. Even before that, when I was in grade school, I found notebooks when I was in the sixth grade of different plays drawn up on offense and defense and I studied those, so coaching has always been something that has been a passion of mine.”

After graduating from Robert Morris, Militzer got his first shots coaching college football at Carnegie Mellon and Washington & Jefferson college. With Militzer getting his first shot at the collegiate ranks, he was very thankful for the opportunity to kickstart his coaching career with two exceptional programs at the Division III level.

“It was a dream come true,” Militzer said. “To coach at the college level was awesome. I was at two great programs and I was in the postseason every season that I coached in college football in that first five seasons, so it was pretty special. Until this year, the Carnegie Mellon team we had was one of the best teams they had ever had. With the W&J team, we got to go to the playoffs and a bowl game and once again got to learn with some great coaches.”

Militzer went through stints with both programs from 2006-10 before getting the opportunity to be an assistant coach with Gateway, Peters Township, Bishop Canevin and Carlyton.

Moving back down to the high school level after coaching at the college level was seamless for Militzer, who found no struggles adjusting to working with the younger players once again as it was the right fit for him at the time.

“No, not at all,” Militzer said. “The kids were great. There really was not much of an adjustment. A good friend of mine got the job at Carlynton and asked me to become the defensive coordinator at Carlynton. It was really close to my house and I just had a newborn, so it just made sense to make a move back down to the high school level.”

He spent a couple of years with those programs before landing his first head coaching position at the high school level with Charleroi in 2014.

Throughout his time with Charleroi, he built up a program that struggled to muster wins year in and year out. But in his final season with the team in 2017, that all changed for Militzer as he helped Charleroi to a 9-1 record, which was their best in 20 years.

Then after his stint with Robert Morris, Militzer found his new home with OLSH, where he had just wrapped up his first year at the helm as head coach, and the ability to be with his family more than he was at RMU was a huge perk for him throughout his first season.

“Both my son and daughter were with me every game. She was the water girl and he was a ball boy and ran the team out, so that are some of the things that my family will remember forever.”

Militzer helped lead OLSH to an 8-3 season and helped the Chargers reach the WPIAL Class 1A playoffs once again this season.

It seems like Militzer will be with OLSH for a long time after jumping around for almost the first two decades of his coaching career when he was asked a question that would change the course of his football career forever.