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‘I Just Want to be Myself’: Calijah Kancey is Paving His Own Path Forward



When you run the fastest 40-yard dash for a defensive lineman at the NFL Combine in the last two decades, breaking the record held by Aaron Donald, it’s hard not to draw comparisons.

When you’re an undersized All-American defensive tackle from Pitt, again, it’s hard not to draw comparisons. But at the end of the day, it’s Calijah Kancey’s race and not anyone else’s. The comparisons are nice, but he truly is his own man.

The first Calijah Kancey.

“It’s an honor to even be up for a comparison with a guy like that, but honestly I’m myself,” Kancey said on the Jim Rome Show. “I just want to be my own self. I appreciate the comparisons with the GOAT, which he is, but honestly, I just want to be myself, make a name for myself.”

Kancey has come a long way since arriving at Pitt as an under-recruited defensive lineman from Miami, Florida, without an offer from Miami, Florida State, Florida or any of the major Florida schools. He’s certainly made a name for himself.

He’s the 2022 ACC Defensive Player of the Year, a two-time All-American (just the 13th player in program history to earn unanimous honors) and a very likely first round selection in the 2023 NFL Draft.

He racked up 31 tackles (17 solo), 14.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks in 2022, in just 11 games, as he cemented himself as perhaps the leading interior pass rusher in college football — the No. 1 trait that is attracting NFL teams in his draft cycle. His speed and quickness at 281 pounds are very, very uncommon.

In his Pitt career, through just three seasons, Kancey recorded 91 tackles (52 solo), 34.5 tackles for loss, 16 sacks, three pass breakups and a forced fumble. It was a career that started fast and only got faster.

And he credits a Mr. Patrick Narduzzi for helping him reach the level he’s achieved.

“He does a great job with us at Pitt,” Kancey said. “He teaches us to be tough, which you have to be to be on his defense. He just builds character, and also you just have to be able to take criticism from a coach and you gotta be able to have tough skin because coach Narduzzi is not always gonna be the nicest guy. But he’s also gonna hold you accountable and push you to be a great player and not just a good player.”

Kancey grew exponentially at Pitt, learning from Narduzzi and defensive line coach Charlie Partridge the entire way, and former teammates like Jaylen Twyman, Rashad Weaver and Patrick Jones, and he’s up next. He’s not looking to be anyone but himself either.

“My playing weight was 275 pounds,” Kancey said at the NFL Combine last week. “I’m weighing 280 pounds right now, and I’m looking good.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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