I normally don’t write posts about Preferred Walk-ons even though they are an important part of the Pitt football program, but frequent POV reader / infrequent poster Walk DelGaudio (pittdoc, CAS ’92, Med School ’96) reached out to me and told me that his son Luke would be accepting a PWO offer. So first of all, congratulations to Walt. He’s got to be extremely proud. Second of all, Luke, if you are reading this, yes your Dad put me up to it. With that being said, I’d like to just post a little excerpt from the Walt’s email before I get to the meat of the article.
I did in fact Google Luke DelGaudio after reading that, and as luck would have it, Luke’s HUDL video was near the top of the list.
Taking a look at the film, you can see why Pitt likes him. He’s tall, has long arms, fluid. Good athlete. Not super fast, but has decent burst and can shake defenders with his routes. Good field awareness and plays physical. At 6’3″, 190 but a 4.67 forty, you have to wonder if they don’t want him to bulk up and take a run at Tight End. Get that kid some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!
Which brings me to the point of the article: Getting production out of Preferred Walk-ons. Pitt seems to have signed a bunch of them recently, but only two have really contributed. All-ACC Center Jimmy Morrissey and Fullback George Aston (Who was was received by Paul Chryst. Aston signed a futures contract with the Giants in January.)
In fact, it was Paul Chryst who started the whole Preferred Walk on Program (or at least put it on the path to where it is today) in 2014. (You may ahem remember one Reed Kohberger who wrote a very informative and rather upbeat article on this on a website called “Pitt Blather” -about six years ago).
Here’s a little excerpt from Reed’s 2014 piece:
This year we have at least 13 walk-ons as true freshmen. There are three that I’m keeping an eye on who may just contribute this season: Shane Roy at DE, DB Kahri Anderson and QB Joe Repischak from Upper St. Clair. I really liked Repischak when I watched him in practice. He turned down other offers from some Ivy League schools just to get onto the roster at PITT and at 6’3″ and 220 lbs he’s built like a D1 QB. His arm strength is good and his accuracy looked fine to me. I’m surprised he didn’t get more D1 offers, like from PITT!, after his SR year. I’ll bet a paycheck he’s on the roster as a scholarship player sooner than later.
In addition Jameel Poteat is a walk-on RB who will most probably be getting a good amount of playing time in 2015 as he also is a transfer who has to sit out this year, he’ll have a scholarship by then I bet; George Aston bench pressed 440 lbs in HS and is at LB for us and Jacob Craig, another LB, has already been awarded a scholarship after his first camp.
And if you want to go all the way back to the source, this is how they are doing it at Wisconsin.
Walk-ons are a big deal at Wisconsin. Nineteen have gone on to play in the NFL since 1990. Nine front-liners for the Badgers last season, including six with starting experience, were former walk-ons who earned scholarships. That includes a co-captain, tailback Dare Ogunbowale, and the Most Valuable Offensive Player in the Cotton Bowl, tight end Troy Fumagalli.
After the 2015 season, three former UW walk-ons – wide receiver Alex Erickson, outside linebacker Joe Schobert and quarterback Joel Stave – wound up being employed by NFL teams.
Chryst said the best part about the walk-on program – it has roots to 1990 when current UW Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez began a 16-season run as head football coach – is its enduring legacy.
“If it’s just a story that has a start and an end, it only lasts for so long,” he said. “But you have a chapter every year and kids know that.”
Narduzzi has ostensibly kept Chryst’s walk-on program going, although in five years I don’t think many of the ‘Duzzes PWO’s have seen the field. Obviously Morrissey is a success story. Jim Medure was someone else who contributed a bit. John Vardzel saw the field last year. Neither Medure nor Vaedzel made a huge impact, although Medure was a solid special teams contributor and utility man. Vardzel could yet develop into a solid possession guy…perhaps.
Regardless of who brought them in, Pitt has had success moving guys around. Aston was recruited by a Linebacker and moved to Fullback. Seun Idowu was recruited as a Safety and moved to Linebacker. Medure was recruited as a Linebacker and ended up at Tight End. But at the end of the day the walk on game has always been a low percentage play. (Even for programs like Wisconsin.) My thought is that if Pitt can get one walk on a year to contribute, that probably means they are ahead of the curve.
Nonetheless, Narduzzi is now in year five. And by now, you’d have to think he’s got his program rolling. Second year recruiting director Adam Caultry probably has a hand in it, and time will tell if our PWO’s start to make a bigger impact. The good news every single one of them has a chance to see the field, and the better they perform, the stronger Pitt is for it. Pitt is never going to be going to be able to contribute with programs like Clemson when it comes to recruiting, but we should hope a we can can compete with programs like Wisconsin when it comes to PWO’s. Welcome to Pittsburgh Luke Delgaudio, we hope your hard work pays off.
Hail to Pitt