Seun Idowu is the kind of football player that can frequently be seen with a smile on his face.
It’s probably never been as wide as it was on Tuesday, though, when Idowu — along with backup quarterback Manny Stocker — was awarded a scholarship by Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi.
Idowu, a redshirt sophomore who was also named a starter at outside linebacker this week, has had a lot to smile about this week. His first call after getting out of practice was to his parents.
“I already talked to them,” Idowu said. “It’s a good day. … Everybody was just really happy. We’ve been waiting for that day to come. It’s finally here. I’m just so glad.”
It isn’t easy being a Division-I football player. There are many things pulling players in a multitude of directions. Distractions are at an all-time high. So it’ll definitely be a plus for Idowu to get one more thing off his mind — his parents’ tuition checks.
“That stuff was always in the back of my mind, to be honest,” he said. “Every single ounce of my worry and stress and pressure is just into football … Now I can just really go all the way into football and not worry about this and that — money. This is great.”
Idowu, who is from Wexford and went to North Allegheny, had opportunities to go to a smaller school and potentially earn a scholarship elsewhere, but he saw potential for the future at Pitt and stuck with it through a coaching regime change and a move from safety to linebacker last season.
“It was a grueling process,” Idowu said. “Every day is a grind. All eyes are really stacked against you.” He said his teammates, particularly George Aston, Kellen McAlone and Jaryd Jones-Smith helped push and motivate him, especially after Aston received a scholarship as a former walk-on in 2015.
With a couple of key injuries, Idowu was able to compete for a starting outside linebacker spot in the spring and he beat out several other players for that role. That’s when he started to realize that ending up on scholarship this year was a possibility.
“After spring ball was the time it really hit,” he said. “I was the one coming out of spring ball. You’re in a position to do it, just go ahead and do it. There’s nothing else to it.”
As a former defensive back, Idowu brings boatloads of athleticism to the Star position, which line up to the larger side of the field and is responsible for more coverage duties than the near-side linebacker, named Money.
“Being able to run, speed, being able to cover guys, being able to keep up with these guys, those are definitely the thing that you’ve got to being bring to the position,” he said. “
The other things he’s focused on has been learning his duties and roles so that seniors Matt Galambos and Mike Caprara don’t need to worry about Idowu missing a read or a call.
“That was really a big concern for me,” he said. “I’m next to two senior linebackers. They’ve played a lot of downs together and I haven’t [been] with them. I needed to make sure they could trust me through practice so when we get into a game, they have full confidence that I can do my job.”
While Idowu outlasted Elijah Zeise, amongst others, for the starting spot, linebackers coach Rob Harley expects both to get playing time.
“That position is an athletic position, playing to the field,” said linebackers coach Rob Harley. “I think both [Idowu and Elijah Zeise] of them bring that. I feel really good. I think Zeise has come a long, long way.”
Harley expects to use all six linebackers on the two-deep, but doesn’t have a set plan for repetitions. Quintin Wirginis is the backup at middle linebacker and senior Bam Bradley round out the top-six.
“I think it’s a feel thing,” he said. “If a guy needs a rest, get him out. I really do be believe the guys get hot, even on defense.”
Pitt’s three freshmen linebackers — Chase Pine, Kaezon Pugh (Aliquippa) and Elias Reynolds — will all report to the scout team field, at least for the time being.
“They’ve only been here for three weeks of practice,” Harley said. “They still have to get acclimated to what college football is all about. Now school starts. All of those things are compounding now. All they’ve done for three weeks is play football and be out here. Now, they’re living the college life away from mom and dad. It’s just to get acclimated to what we’re trying to do, acclimated with the program, the standards that have been set by Coach Narduzzi and the people before us.
“That’s really what I’m looking for from those guys — to continue to just become football players and just playing over there whether they’re playing someone else’s defense, just playing the game and getting used to playing.”
Playing on the scout team doesn’t guarantee that a player will redshirt, but it seems likely that unless Pitt suffers an unexpected number of injuries, that’s the likely fate of Pine, Pugh and Reynolds.
After adding Stocker and Idowu, Pitt is now at the maximum of 85 scholarships.