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Opinion

Vukovcan: Aaron Donald’s Super Bowl Win Caps Magical Season For Pitt Football Program

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The 2021-22 football season officially ended Sunday night with the Los Angeles Rams defeating the Cincinnati Bengals, 23-20, to win Super Bowl LVI.

While the Rams and the Georgia Bulldogs won Super Bowl and NCAA titles, it would be difficult to argue that any football team benefited by the spotlight they received more than the Pitt Panthers. At the start of 2021 calendar year, no one in Pitt administration or football department could’ve dreamed up what was in store for them over the next year.

Companies throughout the country spend millions of dollars each year in an attempt to market their product but the Pitt football program received those promotional benefits by players or formers players simply doing their jobs. Not only did they do their jobs, but they did so at the highest level, which is a tip of the cap to Pitt football.

While it might be possible, I find it difficult to name a college team that accomplished what Pat Narduzzi’s program did in 2021.

Aaron Donald Wins Super Bowl: Arguably, the greatest player in the history of Pitt football cemented his legacy with his 1st Super Bowl Championship. Donald wasn’t just a participant in the game, he showed the country why he’s the best defensive player in the league and quite possibly the best overall player in the NFL. While quiet in the 1st half due to being double and triple teamed virtually every snap, Donald took his game to another level in the second half and turned in a legendary second half and sealed the championship with the last two plays of the game. Thousands of high school athletes around the country watched Donald’s performance and if they didn’t already know so, I’m sure they’ll be reminded in the next weeks that the most dominant player in the league went to the college at Pitt. That’s called a real recruiting tool.

Kenny Pickett’s Explosion onto the National Scene: No one in college football has had their profile skyrocket like Kenny Pickett. Before the season, only Pitt and casual football fans were familiar with Pickett but that’s not the case now as he’s a household name that’s soon to be a 1st Round draft pick. Pickett returned for another season, betting on himself and that the Pitt coaches and program could help improve his NFL Draft stock. That was a great decision as he went on to throw for 4,319 yards and 42 touchdowns. Those numbers were good enough for Pickett to receive an invite to the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York and on ESPN, where Pat Narduzzi and the Pitt Panthers were mentioned countless times. That’s no doubt great and beneficial marketing for Pitt and that will continue during the NFL Draft. The first benefit that Pitt’s received from Pickett’s breakout season was landing highly sought-after USC transfer quarterback Kedon Slovis.

Jordan Addison is Pitt’s Next Superstar: Pickett wasn’t the only Panther to become a nationally known and future high NFL Draft selection. Following a season of catching 100 passes for 1,593 yards and 17 touchdowns, Jordan Addison won the Biletnikoff Award as the top receiver in college football. In today’s college football where passing the ball is king, being able to throw out the name Jordan Addison to potential high school receivers must be nice for the Panthers staff. The good thing is that Addison is returning which means Pitt will receive the free marketing that Addison will bring them over the next year. Pitt will also be able to add these two names to the long list of former Panthers currently playing in the NFL. While other programs can loosely say ‘we can get you to the league’, Pitt can honestly say that and throw out recent Panthers Aaron Donald, Tyler Boyd, Brian O’Neill, James Conner, Jordan Whitehead, Dane Jackson, Damar Hamlin, Rashad Weaver, Patrick Jones, etc. as examples. They’ll soon add Pickett and Addison to that impressive list.

2021 On-Field Accomplishments: Individual accomplishments are nice but having that talent translate into wins is a must to become a really desirable program. Thanks to what happened on the field this year, Pitt has another aspect of their program that they can promote and that’s being winners. Narduzzi’s team was able to achieve an 11-win season and for the first time in program history, win the ACC Football Championship. Despite losing in the Peach Bowl, Pitt finished the season ranked in the Top 15 and considering what they have returning next season, they should find themselves ranked to start 2022. The other by-product of all this team and individual success was that Narduzzi was able to lure a couple top Power Five assistants to join his coaching staff in Frank Cignetti, Jr. and Tiquan Underwood. Trust me, that isn’t happening if Pitt was 7-6 and playing in a no-name bowl game. Talented players and coaches want to be a part of successful programs, which is where Pitt currently finds themselves.

Thanks to everything that was accomplished, Pitt football finally enters the off-season with some buzz and excitement. The next challenge is to make this a regular occurrence and not just a once in a lifetime happening. That’s real proof that you have a really good program and not just a team that had a special season.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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Rob Radich
Rob Radich
3 months ago

Great piece. H2P

TJ
TJ
3 months ago

So true … let’s keep this mo’ going ! H2P

Clark Martineau
Clark Martineau
3 months ago

HAIL TO PITT!!

Randy Joseck
Randy Joseck
3 months ago

We get to enjoy this awhile. The NFL draft lead up will provide more positive publicity for PITT. H2P

March Madness

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