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‘Nothing’s Gonna Change’: It’s Still Business As Usual for Nick Lapi



Pitt linebacker Nick Lapi.

David Green stood at the podium during a team meeting Monday night and lauded the work that ‘scholarship’ guys like Brandon George and Nick Lapi have put in.

“How many guys play all phases and on special teams?” Green asked the room. “B-George, Lap. So, I mean, like, those guys really bought in. Both of those guys were like, they don’t got to be on it, they two-deep, they both scholarship guys, so they don’t need to worry about none of that. So, I feel like just…

Green stopped as George shook his head, sinking into his seat in the front row a bit as he mouthed, “he’s not on scholarship.”

“You said he’s not on scholarship…?” Green asked softly, before raising his voice. “Well, today he is. Aye, you on scholarship.”

Dozens of guys leaped out of their seats, all noises drawn out by the mass of exuberant teammates mobbing Lap — who has spent two seasons at Pitt as a walk-on linebacker — in the team meeting room at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. Lapi’s face flashed on the projector screen, his cutout pointing down at the crowd with a caption.

“Congrats Nick Lapi. You’re on scholarship!”

The smile on Lapi’s face Monday night said it all, his years of hard work paying off in the form of a scholarship, but it wasn’t a surprise. Not really for Lapi, and not at all for someone like Kyle Louis, who has played alongside Louis for just about a year now.

“I’ve just seen him doing his thing,” Louis said after practice Tuesday. “I always felt like he was one of the best linebackers, one of the best, proficient linebackers and hardworking linebackers, so he more than deserved it for a long time.”

Lapi was the first linebacker that Louis met on his official visit to Pittsburgh, and that Jersey connection was almost instantaneous. “Lapi had dapped me up, and he said, ‘You from Jersey, right?’ And I said, ‘Yeah,’ and he said, ‘I’m from Jersey, too.’ And it automatically just clicked.” Those Jersey boys are just different.

Pat Narduzzi isn’t a Jersey boy himself, a proud Youngstown native in his own right, but he sort of has that vibe about him. And he’s been around enough guys from Jersey now that he might be an honorary Jersey boy at this point.

But as he met with Lapi upon wrapping up spring ball in April, the topic of a scholarship lingered just out of sight.

Narduzzi and Lapi talked about how he’s battled with Pitt’s scholarship linebackers for long enough, how he’s served just about every role imaginable during his two and a half years in Pittsburgh, and Lapi felt like a scholarship might be in the cards. It finally arrived Monday night.

“Nick Lapi has done an unbelievable job, all year last year and it was an easy decision to put this guy on scholarship,” Narduzzi said as he introduced Lapi after Tuesday’s practice. “You guys saw him on special teams last year, and you’re gonna see him on defense playing linebacker. He can play probably any of the three positions. He’s athletic, he’s tough and a guy that’s dependable.”

Lapi may be Pitt’s newest scholarship linebacker, but he will never forget perhaps the most important lesson he’s learned from a coach at Pitt.

“Nothing’s gonna change,” Lapi said after Tuesday’s practice. “I’m just gonna carry on. Like what coach Junko always says, ‘Don’t ever get too high, never get too low, just keep on chopping that wood.’”

When he arrived at Pitt as an athlete, having played running back and linebacker at Northern Highlands High in Allendale, New Jersey, he just wanted to go to a big school that wasn’t too far away from home. He knew Pitt was it the second he stepped onto campus during his first visit. He isn’t the same kid he was when he first stepped onto campus in 2021.

“I remember freshman year, I was Rocks going against Kenny (Pickett) and Jordan Addison and those guys, so I definitely see a lot of improvement,” Lapi said. “And I definitely think things started to really click last spring ball. That’s when I started understanding the defense and being a little more confident in our system.”

He appeared in all 13 games last season, recording 250 special teams snaps (and a special teams tackle against North Carolina in late October), and he took seven defensive snaps at linebacker — including a fourth quarter snap against West Virginia.

It remains to be seen what Lapi’s role in Pitt’s defense will be this season, but as Narduzzi lauded his versatility and athleticism, I think he’s a good fit for either Mike or Money. And if he’s able to show that he can move in space, maybe even Star, too.

But the first move that Lapi had to make after officially being put on scholarship Monday was letting his mother know the good news.

“I had to go into Duzzi’s office and call my mom, and I can’t say exactly what she said — she cursed a little bit. But she was very happy, she couldn’t stop smiling.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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1 month ago

Including that video was very cool. Congratulations,
Nick Lapi!

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