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University of Pittsburgh Football

While the University of Pittsburgh (commonly called Pitt) football program has a rich history that dates back to the nineteenth century there are three players in particular that stand out as the most accomplished and well known. The three most popular players to ever wear the blue and gold Pitt Panther uniforms are Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino, Heisman Trophy Winner and Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett, and tremendously gifted phenom receiver Larry Fitzgerald whose full potential has yet to be realized.

Dan Marino, born in 1961, is known to most of the world as the All-Pro NFL player that played his entire professional career as the star quarterback of the Miami Dolphins. Most casual fans of the iconic quarterback don't realize that the man often associated with Southern Florida is actually a native of Western Pennsylvania. Born in Pittsburgh, the dual sport prep star excelled in both football and baseball where he was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 1979 draft before committing to a career in football. Despite being named a Parade All-American quarterback as a high school senior the young man with a multitude of college choices decided to stay local by attending the University of Pittsburgh from 1979 to 1983. During his time playing for Pitt Marino had an unforgettable career with the crowning highlight possibly being when he threw the game winning pass in the 1982 Sugar Bowl to beat the University of Georgia.

Tony Dorsett, like Marino, is a product of western Pennsylvania. Dorsett, born in Rochester, Pennsylvania, had a historic football career at the University of Pennsylvania that included winning both a national championship and the Heisman Trophy in 1976. During his four year career Dorsett was a first team All-American on three separate occasions and a second team All-American once, a record level of accomplishment that will likely never be matched. Tony Dorsett left the University of Pittsburgh with over 6,000 rushing yards, a number that was good enough to set an NCAA record that would stand for over thirty years until it was broken in 1998 by Texas running back Ricky Williams. The elusive running back would go on to have a Hall of Fame pro career carrying the ball predominately for the Dallas Cowboys and later for one year with the Denver Broncos before retiring after the 1988 season.

Larry Fitzgerald, born in 1983, is by far the youngest of the Pitt names on this very short three man list. The personal impact Fitzgerald had on games during his college career at the receiver position is simply incredible. Unlike Dorsett and Marino Fitzgerald was not a highly touted recruit coming out of high school. In fact, the journeyman high school athlete first committed to playing college football at the small liberal arts school Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota (with a total enrollment of only 2,600 students the school competes in Division III athletics). Had Fitzgerald followed through with his initial commitment he likely would have never had the opportunity to become the NFL star he is today, regardless of how well he performed at the Division III level. Fitzgerald made the wise decision to reevaluate his college commitment and ultimately attend the University of Pittsburgh.

Fitzgerald had such a high degree of success while at Pitt that he was awarded numerous accolades including the Walter Camp Award recognizing the best player in college football. After his sophomore season Larry Fitzgerald came in a very close second place (behind Jason White of Oklahoma) in the voting for the esteemed Heisman Trophy. It is very rare for a wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy and at the time of Fitzgerald's run at the award a sophomore had never won it before. Larry Fitzgerald established an interesting record while at Pitt in that he set the high water mark by NCAA standards with at least one touchdown reception in eighteen consecutive games. While wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald does not yet have the NFL accomplishments to his name that Marino and Dorsett acquired there is a good chance by the time his professional career is over that he will have made as great an impact at his position as the other noteworthy players did at theirs.

University of Pittsburgh football has been defined by three superb athletes at three different positions in Dan Marino (QB), Tony Dorsett (RB), and Larry Fitgerald (WR). While it is unclear who the next generation stand out football star for the University of Pittsburgh team will be the one thing that Pitt fans can be sure of is that there will be another revolutionary athlete to come through their program in the years to come.