Tag: Larry Fitzgerald
Talent as much as hard work perseveres in college football. Many of the great high school athletes play two positions in high school – RB/LB, WR/LB, QB/DB, etc. They then pick one position for college. It’s up to the college coach to put his players in a place to success but the truly gifted can probably still get by on talent in college. Some let the coach pick, others insist on a particular position.
Sometimes selfishness pays off. Pitt great Larry Fitzgerald recently revealed that he was nearly swayed by the grand experiment, the “success with honor” bullsh*t peddled by Joe Paterno at Pennstate. He nearly became a Nittany Lion linebacker.
More than 10 years ago, this [numbers-first] attitude led to a life-changing decision. He said no to Joe Paterno, who wanted Fitzgerald to play linebacker, to be part of a great Penn State tradition.
“I played linebacker all the way up to my senior year in high school,” Fitzgerald said. “I was heavily recruited as a defensive player. I had about 25 to 30 offers coming out, and probably 70 percent of them were defensive offers. I grew up watching Penn State, and was really enamored by the defense at Linebacker U.”
Except Fitzgerald was chasing something else, and he did something rare. Like Tony Dorsett, he chose the University of Pittsburgh instead, where Fitzgerald would be the team’s star wide receiver, catching 34 touchdown passes in two seasons before jumping all the way to the NFL.
Despite their well-worn reputation as “Linebacker U”, perhaps Pennstate should stop trying to turn every great athlete into a linebacker!
LaVar Arrington was a RB/LB in high school. In fact, he was known as much for his running skills at Mars & North Hills High School so it was a surprise to me when he switched over to LB fulltime at Pennstate. Paterno may have gotten it right on this one but I’ve always wondered how Arrington would have done at running back.
Pro football Hall of Fame Quarterback Jim Kelly grew up in East Brady, PA, in the heart of Pennstate country. He always wanted to play at Pennstate. The only thing he wanted to do more than play at Pennstate was to play quarterback. But Joe Paterno wanted him at LB. So Kelly chose to go to the University of Miami instead. Bam.
Former Pitt QB Rod Rutherford was one of most sought after recruits in the country during his days at Perry Traditional Academy. Almost no one thought he would end up at Pitt, especially after the sainted Paterno paid an in-person visit to the Rutherford house. But Pitt coach Walt Harris did what Paterno wouldn’t do. He promised Rutherford the opportunity to play offense, namely QB, not linebacker or safety. Two years later, Rutherford scampered 60+ yards for the only touchdown in the last game Paterno ever coached against Pitt. For his career, Rod Rutherford finished with 458 completions in 840 attempts, passing for 6,725 yards and 60 touchdowns.
Photo Credit: John Beale, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
[As an aside, I don't really feel like commenting on the whole PSU/Paterno/Sandusky conflagration. So instead, I'll rip on Pennstate in the way they'll best understand, on the gridiron].
In honor of NLI Day, let us speculate.
In the fall of 2010, sophomore Kevin Newsome and mega-recruit Paul Jones will lose the PSU starting QB competition to true freshman Robert Bolden. Not willing to ride the pine for three years, Jones transfers to Pitt and Newsome follows in the footsteps of Jeff Hostetler by transferring to WVU. Three years later, Paul Jones starts for Pitt at Panther Hollow Field as they welcome Pennstate back to their eastern roots as a member of the re-formed Eastern Elite Conference (along with new/old members BC, ND, UVA, VT & UMD) in Greg Schiano’s first year at the helm of the State Penn. Mr. Schiano leads Pennstate out of the tunnel in true Jersey fashion – doing the fist pump.
Former PSU coach Joe Paterno is given a rousing chorus of “@$$h0le” by the Pitt faithful. Pennstaters at the game respond by throwing their beverages high up in the air but are surprised when said concoctions come straight down and hit them in the head. Former DC Tom Bradley weeps in a corner, alone and forgotten.
Schiano’s personal guests include the newly elected Governor of New Jersey, Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino and first lady Snooki. Inspired by Schiano’s Jersey pride, The Situation subsequently passes a bill requiring all New Jersey/Staten Island/guido athletes to do the Fist Pump during pre-game ceremonies and changes the state song to Kernkfraft 400′s Zombie Nation. Mr. Schiano’s controversial replacement of White with Orange as PSU’s secondary color to more closely mirror the color of all his NJ players’ skin pays huge dividends as Pennstate’s new Orange-Glo Nights (sponsored by Fanta) will come to be devastating to opponents who can’t handle the burst of color from the students’ section. (Incidentally, PSU loses its first Orange-Glo against Mr. Schiano’s old team Rutgers because the PSU players can’t pick out the Rutgers’ players amidst the sea of orange).
Pitt avenges the memories of 48-14 by blasting Bolden into the ground in Dave Wannstedt’s swan song as Pitt coach before turning over the reins to OC Frankie Cignetti. Wannstedt’s first act as new Athletic Director is to bring back the script PITT as a third jersey. On the Pitt sideline that day are former greats Mike DITKA, who commands that all Pitt men must grow mustaches, goatees or beards, POTUS Larry Fitzgerald, Governor of Florida Danny Marino and the man responsible for finally destroying the BCS and instituting a college football playoff, NCAA Commissioner Tony Dorsett (pronounced DOR-sett, not dor-SETT).
Pitt Defensive Coordinator Tony Siragusa, one of the holdovers from Wannstedt’s staff, threatens to eat anyone who goes against DITKA’s commandment or doesn’t believe that Larry would’ve have caught that. Mr. Siragusa does end up eating Bob Nutting on orders from Pirates, Penguins and city of Pittsburgh owner/Wizard of Oz Mario Lemieux. Mr. Lemieux’s Man-Behind-The-Curtains, Ron Burkle slides into the all-concealing shadow as he seeks to find the Jade Monkey, road maps and ice scraper before the next full moon.
From up on high, the Four Horsemen of Pittsburgh Football – Art Rooney Sr, Pop Warner, Jock Sutherland and Myron Cope look down on all that they have wrought and smile. For behold, it is very good.
Photo Credits: Joe Hermitt/The Patriot News, Matt Freed/Post-Gazette
A quick list of the Grand Canyon State’s ever growing contingent of Pittsburgh-related coaching connections:
* Cardinals’ coach Ken Whisenhunt served most of his coaching career with the Steelers, ending as Offensive Coordinator.
* Whisenhunt’s top assistant Russ Grimm is from Scottsdale, played his college ball at Pitt and was Bill Cowher’s top assistant/offensive line coach with the Steelers.
* Cardinals’ defensive coordinator Billy Davis got his first start in NFL coaching with the Steelers.
* Arizona State head basketball coach Herb Sendek grew up in Pittsburgh, graduating from Penn Hills High School and Carnegie Mellon University.
* Finally, new University of Arizona head basketball coach Sean Miller is from Blackhawk High School and considered one of the best point guards ever to play for Pitt. He also spent some time as an assistant at Pitt.
Is that enough to convince you that Arizona = Pittsburgh West? Oh and there’s also Larry Fitzgerald.
By and large, I consider myself to be a fortunate sports fan. My teams generally do well. Two Superbowl titles, 2 Stanley Cups, 7 Sweet Sixteens, 1 Elite Eight, 1 Champions League, 1 FA Cup, Curtis Martin, Larry Fitzgerald, many others. And someday the Pirates will get to .500 and all of Pittsburgh will go nuts.
I think a reasonable standard of expectation for a fan is for one’s teams to be in the hunt, in any given year. Nothing more, nothing less. All the crazies who expect a title every single season can stay in Lexington or Tuscaloosa or the Bronx.
In any given year, I expect that the Steelers will win 10+ games and have a shot at the Superbowl. I expect the Penguins to make the NHL playoffs and have a shot at the Stanley Cup. I expect that Pitt basketball will make the Field of 65 and have a shot to make a run to the Final Four. I expect Liverpool FC to contend for the Premiership, Champions League, and/or FA Cup titles. Eventually, I would like to expect that Pitt football will win 8-9 games in most years and once every few years when the pieces fall into place, they should contend for a national title.
But even with what I believe are reasonable expectations, you inevitably get heart-breaking losses. I don’t have to tell you which loss I’m “mourning” today. I would have to say that Pitt’s loss to Villanova ranks second only to Francisco Cabrera’s single for Atlanta vs the Pirates in the 1992 NLCS. Even the Penguins recovered from David Volek. The Pirates have never recovered from that loss.
Pitt basketball is a strong program and they’ll rebound, rebuild and contend again. I know we had a successful season. I’m proud of how they battled and banged with the big boys. We’ll be back. I expect it.