Dan Marino, Mike Ditka, Mark May and Tony Dorsett are just a few of the legendary names that had a significant hand in making the Pittsburgh Panthers a definitive brand name in college football. And, because of their efforts in the Steel City, they all have their jerseys retired at the University for older Panther fans to reminisce about and educate the younger generation about the impact they each made.
Now, they will be joined by the only player from this generation who more than deserves to be in their company.
While the majority of Monday was spent by Pitt celebrating their official move to the ACC, they capped off the day by making a very special announcement.
Larry Fitzgerald, undoubtedly the greatest wide receiver in the history of Pitt football, will be the man joining those names mentioned above as AD Steve Pederson announced they will retire Fitzgerald’s #1 jersey. This is a more than deserving honor as Fitzgerald proved the worth of wearing that number on nearly every occasion he could.
Although he only spent two years in Pittsburgh, they were two of the more memorable years in the history of the program. Fitzgerald burst onto the scene as a redshirt freshman in 2002 and wowed the college football world immediately with his exceptional route-running skills and flawless hands. While we were thoroughly impressed with his skills as a freshman, his sophomore year he improved even more and racked up the accolades to show it.
In that 2003 sophomore campaign, Fitzgerald had a season to remember. He won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver, took home the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award, was named a first-team All-American and finished a close second in the Heisman Trophy voting behind Oklahoma Sooners QB Jason White.
Following all of that, the wideout decided it was time to move on to the professional level, where he has consistently been an All-Pro player with the Arizona Cardinals. But not before cementing himself in Panthers’ history with 161 receptions, 2,677 yards and 34 touchdowns in just 26 games played.
Fitzgerald is also as great of a person off the field as he is a player on it. He donates his time to numerous charitable causes, and is very active in community services. His philanthropic efforts have been recognized by numerous outlets around the country.
Congratulations are certainly in order for the greatest player to ever catch passes in Pittsburgh, as well as possibly the greatest of our generation.
Jack is the ACC College Football Writer for Rant Sports. Follow Jack on Twitter @JackJ14RS