Here is a great piece from John…our own MajorMajors.
I’m still trying to recover from the Pitt-Penn State game debacle. The win versus Georgia Tech helped. But my funk after the stinker, rain-soaked game robbed me of an opportunity to share a good experience my son and I had before that game.
We had the good fortune to attend two great pre-game tailgates that day. One, of course, was hosted by the ever resourceful Fran “The Franchise” Lokar. Fran found a spot just inside the garage. We had some big-time POV celebrities in attendance, led by BigB and his wife. I took some photos to capture the “POV Under Cover” event. My only regret was that I got there after ike had left and I left before ike returned.
My son and I left Fran’s tailgate early because we went to the Pitt “Hall of Fame” pre-game tailgate. I had gotten an invite even though I was a lowly baseball team letterman. I bought a ticket to bring my son as my guest. It turned out to be well worthwhile.
Of course we got soaked walking to the tent where the Hall of Fame tailgate was held. As we got inside the tent and found some space where we could shake the water off, I look up and not six feet away from me, sitting at a table with a woman who I presume was his wife, sat —– the legendary Mike Ditka. I said to my son in a low voice – “That’s Mike Ditka!”
Mike Ditka was sitting there like the Godfather. It seemed like everyone was somewhat hesitant to approach him. My son and I approached him and I said “Iron Mike, it’s an honor to shake your hand.” He couldn’t have been nicer. I told Mike that I had worked with a person, Pete Suder, who had played baseball with him at Pitt. Mike said he remembered Pete as a very good baseball player. I didn’t know if Mike really remembered him, but then Mike said that Pete’s father had played in the majors for the Philadelphia Athletics – which is true. So Mike did remember.
After talking with Iron Mike (how do you follow that up?) we started looking around the tent. A person who was at least a foot taller than everyone else caught my eye. So we went and said hello to Charles Smith. Then we spotted Billy Knight and talked to him. These guys couldn’t have been nicer. Smith is impressively tall and thin; Knight was both tall and big.
Next we see a small gathering around Tony Dorsett. We go and wait our turn to say hello and get a photo. I said “Tony, how does it feel to be the best of all time?” Tony was gracious.
Then we tracked down Hugh Green. I said “Hugh, how does it feel to be the best of all time?” I mean, what do you say to these guys who your are in awe of and who brought you so many good memories?
We saw Johnny Majors but it was getting late and he was on the move and left the tent before we could connect with him. And I don’t know if Danny Marino was in the tent, but we never saw him.
There were some recent players there too. We talked briefly to Matt Galambos. Then my son recognized Chris Blewitt as we were getting some dessert at the dessert table. We ended up talking to Chris about place-kicking for about 20 minutes. I asked him if he tries to hit a 50-yarder harder than a 30 yarder. He said no, you hit them all the same. Said the winning kick at Clemson was the “purest” ball he ever hit. He said he had a tryout with the Steelers but talked about how tough it is to get your “foot” in the door for one of those 32 NFL jobs.
Anyway, just as Fran does a first-rate job on the POV tailgate, Pitt did a first-rate job on the Hall of Fame tailgate. We barely got around to eating anything there, but the food was great. (Note to Fran – that dessert table was one where you could make your own sundae. Ha-ha!)
It was a treat to see the Pitt legends up close and to talk to them. They were all friendly and seemed to be having a good time. I think my son will cherish the photos – especially the one with “Iron Mike Ditka,” and the one with Tony Dorsett, and the one with Hugh Green, and on and on…
I hope the Hall of Fame and this tailgate is an indication that Pitt is going to finally put more emphasis on their treatment and honoring of Pitt’s letter winners.
Apparently Narduzzi is literally killing me. Just came from my pre-op physical and my EKG showed I have had a ‘minor’ heart attack since my last test in…Nov 2014.
I knew you guys were not good for my health. Now I have to deal with this crap before I get the OK to get cut open. Funny thing though is that I’m in great health otherwise.