There was a time when the University of Pittsburgh was a powerhouse among the collegiate ranks. As a result, it produced some of the biggest names in professional football, from Mike Ditka to Dan Marino.
In recent years, the program has experienced seasons of disappointment (winning just two games in 1998) and moments of brilliance (including a 19-17 come-from-behind victory in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in 2009).
What separates the program in Pitt versus others is the ability to churn out viable NFL talent.
The top three Panthers in the NFL:
1. LeSean McCoy(RB, Philadelphia Eagles)
McCoy was among the most productive running backs in the history of the Big East. During his two-year tenure at Pitt, he rushed for 35 touchdowns, compiling 2,816 yards. He added 65 receptions. He led the conference in rushing touchdowns with 21 in 2008.
Drafted in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles, McCoy became an instant star and supplanted Brain Westbrook in the Philadelphia backfield. Coming off consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons, his ability as a charismatic play-maker has earned him high marks in both the rushing and passing attack.
2. Larry Fitzgerald (WR, Arizona Cardinals)
A Heisman Trophy runner-up, Fitzgerald may be the best receiver ever produced by the University of Pittsburgh football program. In 2003, he received Big East Offensive Player of the Years honors. In just two seasons, Fitzgerald caught 161 passes, good for 2,677 yards and 35 touchdowns.
A six-time Pro Bowler, Fitzgerald has been just as dominant in the NFL since being selected third overall by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2004 NFL Draft. Extremely durable, he has missed just four games in eight-plus seasons. Fitzgerald has 697 career receptions. His 9,678 receiving yards ranks 10th among active leaders, despite being just 28 years of age. If he remains healthy, Fitzgerald could finish his career as one of the best receivers the game has ever witnessed by any statistical measure.
3. Darrelle Revis (CB, New York Jets)
Described by college football analyst Josh Pearce as a truly special "shut-down corner back," Revis possessed a slick combination of speed, agility, and toughness necessary to excel at Pitt. While he may have lacked elite cornerback numbers in college (interceptions and defensive touchdowns), he simply lacked those opportunities given his exceptional coverage ability.
Revis has adapted extremely well to playing in the NFL. A four-time Pro Bowler, he has recorded 19 interceptions since making his debut in 2007. Revis was the 14th overall selection by the New York Jets in that year's draft.
Other Panthers greats in the NFL:
Henry Hynoski (RB, New York Giants)
Greg Williams(LB, Houston Texans)
Greg Romeus(DE, New Orleans Saints)
Lucas Nix (G, Oakland Raiders)
Donn Dickerson (RB, Buffalo Bills)
Mike McGlynn (G, Indianapolis Colts)
LaRod Stephens-Howling (RB, Arizona Cardinals)
Jon Baldwin (WR, Kansas City Chiefs)
Shawntea Spencer (CB, Oakland Raiders)
Lousaka Polite (RB, Atlanta Falcons)
Jason Pinkston(G, Cleveland Browns)
C.J. Davis(C, Denver Broncos)
Dom DeCicco(LB, Chicago Bears)
Jabaal Sheard (DE, Cleveland Browns)
Antwaun Reed(CB, Cleveland Browns)
Clint Session(LB, Jacksonville Jaguars)
Andy Lee(P, San Francisco 49ers)
Dion Lewis (RB, Philadelphia Eagles)
Note: Joe Flacco (QB, Baltimore Ravens) played football at Pitt prior to transferring to the University of Delaware.
Samantha grew up in Williamsport, Penn. In a household dominated by Panthers and Pittsburgh Steelers fans, there was little choice other than to join the madness as a lover of collegiate and professional football. Not wanting it any other way, dad still offers to take her to Pitt home games.