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Pitt Football History Possesses Rich History with WPIAL Quarterbacks



Pitt football quarterback Ben DiNucci

Pitt landed a commitment from Penn Hills Class of 2024 quarterback Julian Duggar on Monday, keeping a WPIAL player at home.

While this isn’t the first time that a WPIAL quarterback has committed to Pitt, it’s only the second time under head coach Pat Narduzzi that he’s gotten a commitment from a player in the region.

The other quarterback from the WPIAL he signed was in his inaugural 2015 class in Ben DiNucci out of Pine-Richland.

DiNucci starred at Pine Richland as a senior in 2014, throwing for 4,269 yards and 46 touchdowns to just nine interceptions. He led his team to a WPIAL Class AAAA title and then all the way to PIAA Class AAAA State Final, where they lost to St. Joseph’s Prep.

He originally signed to Penn, but when Narduzzi joined Pitt in late 2014, he soon offered DiNucci and flipped his commitment.

DiNucci redshirted in 2015 and saw little time in 2016 before finally making impact as a redshirt sophomore in 2017. Starting quarterback Max Browne struggled after transferring in from USC and this allowed DiNucci to play in games. He came off the bench in four games before earning the starting job in the middle of October after Browne suffered a season-ending injury.

He struggled to lead the Panthers to success the rest of the season and first-year quarterback Kenny Pickett started the final game, where he starred in a 24-14 upset of No. 2 Miami. DiNucci finished his 2017 season with 88 completions on 158 attempts for 1,091 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions.

DiNucci would transfer to one of the best programs in the FCS in James Madison and excelled there for the 2018 and 2019 seasons. After finishing in the top 10 in passing yards, passing touchdowns, completions and total yards on offense in program history, the Dallas Cowboys drafted him with the No. 231 pick in the Seventh Round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

He made three starts in Dallas in 2020 before the team waived him prior to the 2022 season. He recently played with the Seattle Sea Dragons in the 2023 season of the XFL, leading the league with 2,671 passing yards and 242 completions, while throwing for 20 touchdowns to 13 interceptions. He helped Seattle to a 7-3 record and a wild card spot in the playoffs where they lost 37-21 to the DC Defenders on Sunday.

The Denver Broncos signed DiNucci this offseason after excelling at a minicamp following the XFL season.

Tino Sunseri is the previous WPIAL quarterback to commit to Pitt as a part of the Class of 2008. The son of former Pitt linebacker Sal Sunseri, Tino starred at Pittsburgh Central Catholic, particularly as a senior in 2007, winning both WPIAL/PIAA AAAA Championships with a perfect 16-0 record. He also threw for 23 touchdowns to just four interceptions that season

Sunseri redshirted in 2008 and came off the bench in five games as the primary back up in 2009, before landing the starting job in 2010.

He started for Pitt for three seasons from 2010-12, the last three seasons for the program in the Big East. Sunseri struggled at times throughout his tenure for a few reasons. The most obvious was that he played under three head coaches in Dave Wannstedt in 2010, then under the infamous “high octane” offense of Todd Graham in 2011 and finally the more suitable pro-offense in 2012 under Paul Chryst.

The Panthers also never won much with Sunseri as the signal caller, going a mediocre 20-19 and 12-9 in the Big East. Sunseri struggled at time to deal with pressure in the pocket and didn’t possess the ability to scramble nor use his legs to create on offense.

He finished with 8.590 passing yards and 49 passing touchdowns, good for fourth best and sixth best in Pitt program history, respectively.

Kevan Smith out of Seneca Valley joined Pitt as a member of the Class of 2006. Smith came into action in the 2007 season with starting quarterback Bill Stull injured. Smith played well against FCS opponent Grambling State, throwing for a Pitt freshman record 202 yards in the victory.

He followed that up with a poor performance against Michigan State on the road, completing nine of 18 passes, throwing two interceptions and having a game-winning touchd0wn pass fall dropped in the 17-13 loss. Smith played poorly the rest of the season and Pat Bostick ended up taking the starting position.

Smith eventually transitioned to baseball starting prior the 2009 season and excelled, hitting .375 in three seasons with the program. Playing as a catcher, the Chicago White Sox drafted him in the Seventh Round of the 2011 MLB Draft and he made his debut in the 2016 season. He played in Chicago for three seasons and also played with the Los Angeles Angeles in 2019, Tampa Bay Rays from 2020-21 and the Atlanta Braves in 2007.

Stull came to Pitt as a part of the Class of 2005 and played for Seton La-Salle in high school. He threw for 3,310 yards, 40 touchdowns to just 15 interceptions and completed 61.76% of his passes as a senior in 2004.

He waited to become starter in 2007, but suffered a thumb injury and used a medical redshirt for that season. Stull helped Pitt to a second place finish in the Big East in 2008, but threw nine touchdowns to 10 interceptions.

Stull improved immensely in 2009, leading Pitt to a 10-3 season and completing 209 passes for 2,633 yards and 21 touchdowns en route to First-Team All-Big East honors. He ended his Pitt career with 5,252 passing yards, 32 passing touchdowns and 5,063 total offensive yards, ranking No. 8 and both No. 10 for a career in Pitt history, respectively.

Pitt signed two WPIAL quarterbacks in the Class of 2002 in Tyler Palko and Luke Getsy.

Palko played under his father, Bob Palko, at West Allegheny and won the WPIAL and the PIAA AAA Titles in 2001. He would start for three seasons at Pitt from 2004-06, which featured a Fiesta Bowl appearance in 2004 and a 19-16 overall record.

Palko ended his Pitt career with 66 passing touchdowns, 8,429 offensive yards and 8,343 passing yards, ranking No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 in program history, respectively.

Getsy played for Steel Valley, where he started for four seasons. He made three appearances for Pitt in the 2023 season before transferring to Akron for his final two seasons. Getsy played great for Akron, leading the program to their first ever bowl game and breaking 24 program records as well.

Despite never playing much in the NFL, Getsy has spent many years in the league and also in college as a coach. He coached seven seasons in college, including the 2010 season as a graduate assistant at Pitt under Wannstedt.

Getsy spent seven seasons with the Green Bay Packers in a number of roles, including offensive quality control coach (2014-15), wide receivers coach (2016-17), quarterbacks coach (2019) and quarterbacks coach & passing game coordinator (2020-21).

He is now the offensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears and is entering his second season with the organization.

Rod Rutherford is another local quarterback that played for Pitt, but didn’t play in the WPIAL. Rutherford played for Perry Traditional Academy, located on the North Side of the City of Pittsburgh, which plays in the City League.

Rutherford won back-to-back City League titles at Perry in 1997 and 1998, while also making the PIAA AAA Final as a junior in 1997.

He joined Pitt as a part of the Class of 1999, where he redshirted his first season and saw little action the next two at the quarterback position. Rutherford did see action on other areas of the field, thanks to his great athleticism. He worked as a kick returner, wide receiver and ran the option behind the center at times.

Rutherford became the starting quarterback in 2002 and did so for two seasons. He teamed up with future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald to create a dynamic passing attack.

During those two seasons, Rutherford threw for 6,724 yards and 60 touchdowns, which ranks sixth and fourth most in Pitt program history, respectively. His 2003 season, which saw Fitzgerald finish as a Heisman finalist, saw him throw for 3,679 yards and 37 touchdowns, second and third most in program history, respectively.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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11 months ago

Where’s the love for Rod Rutherford?!?!?!?! And all those other WPIAL QBs are not leaps and bounds ahead of Dugger! Check the tape, the eye in the sky doesn’t lie!

11 months ago
Reply to  SouthSide412

The city league is not the WPIAL, but Rod Rutherford is a worthy note as a Western Pa athlete

11 months ago
Reply to  Maz1960

No doubt! Thats pretty much my point without having to say it but I thought it could’ve said something like “Western Pa QBs” so they could include him and expand on the article! Just a thought!

11 months ago

Pitt also missed out on a dynamic QB years ago from the city league in Perry’s Greg Goater Mcgee who played for Howard and is coaching there now i do believe after a short professional career chase!

11 months ago

They forget some guy named Marino?

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