Here is yet another Bio piece from a long time reader (keep them coming folks). Mark T. wrote this one and he spins his tale well…
My Pitt story takes me back to the mid 1980’s with my family in south Florida. Not exactly how you thought that should start, right? Well my grandfather was a military man who had decided to retire from the jewelry business he had grown in Michigan and headed south to the tropical weather that Florida offered. Soon thereafter, my parents and myself followed.
Growing up in south Florida in the early and mid 80’s didn’t give you much of a sports option. There wasn’t hockey or baseball there yet and basketball wouldn’t start until 1988 which coincidentally was the year after I moved away from Florida.
In 1980’s south Florida you had the Miami Hurricanes and the Miami Dolphins and that was pretty much it. The Dolphins were still riding their wave of excellence and dominance in the 1970’s and had a young gun slinger named Dan Marino that just seemed to be the most charismatic man while also being the most fiery competitor on the field on any given Sunday.
I didn’t follow college football at the time but as an impressionable young child, South Florida and the Miami Hurricanes absolutely hated, and I mean HATED, Penn State. You’ll remember the battles that ensued between those two programs in the 1980’s and what I knew was, your loyalty was to your region and my region was southern Florida schools.
Relocating to central Pennsylvania in 1987 (after following my grandparents once again) my family and I settled down just south of Harrisburg and I began school as the awkward kid who for some reason wasn’t a Steelers fan or an Eagles fan or even a Redskins fan… but a Dolphins fan. When people would ask me why I was a fan I’d explain where I grew up and then would always end my discussion with two words, Dan Marino.
As it would be, central Pennsylvania are a bunch of homers for their Penn State Nittany Lions. I was already ingrained with hating them and you don’t generally start to like something that you grew up hating and I was certainly no exception. In fact, by moving into the area my hatred for PSU grew larger and larger each year until I had reached high school.
I played a couple of sports in high school but my first love was and will always be football. I was a junky when it came to the sport, playing pick-up games, practicing, creating my own playbooks and watching as many games as I could on the television. One game in particular was very impressionable on me in the 1990’s as I was getting older.
In September of 1997, the Miami Hurricanes were visiting the Pittsburgh Panthers and the game aired on ESPN2. I watched Pete Gonzalez lead that Pitt team to a close 21-17 victory that night and knew that I had found my team. A team that showed that grit, determination and hard work could help any team beat what I grew up knowing as one of the best teams in college football.
I was lucky enough in high school to attend a couple of Pitt Football summer camps (summer of 97 right before that Miami game and the following year in 1998) under head coach Walt Harris. I got my picture taken with Tony Dorsett and his Heisman Trophy. I walked the halls that showed off all the glittering hardware the University had earned via its football program over the years. I lived in Sutherland Hall and walked the same hallways as Bill Fralic. Hugh Green and Dan Marino and every other superstar Pitt player whom I also I started to idolize.
Sadly, I would never suit up for the Pittsburgh Panthers but luckily for me, my grades would allow me to attend whichever university I wished to attend. So in the fall of 1999, I enrolled as a freshman at the great University of Pittsburgh, the same school that my boyhood idol Dan Marino attended.
I now have fond memories of my time at the school, the people I have met and all of the things I have accomplished because of my time at our university.
I can tell you where I was when I thought Greg DeBolt (and the rest of the team) was going to beat up Penn State’s LaVar Arrington for unecessairly leveling DeBolt on a punt return; I attended the last game at Pitt Stadium with an amazing victory over Notre Dame and then attended the great game at Three Rivers stadium the following season when we shut out Penn State 12-0. The upsets over Virginia Tech, the backyard brawls, and other wins, some as big underdogs… these things combine to make up a lot of my current psyche.
Loyalty is a big part of my life, sometimes to a fault. To this day I am still a Miami Dolphins fan and I forever will bleed Pitt’s blue and gold.