The Panthers have sent numerous players to the NFL, some in previous years, and some recently. Many of them have returned to Pittsburgh over the years to watch the team’s annual Blue-Gold game, which is played as the final practice of the team’s spring season.
Pitt’s athletic department just announced that this year, two former Panther all-Americans will not only return to watch the game, but will serve as the honorary coaches of the two squads when Pro Bowl receiver Larry Fitzgerald and NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Aaron Donald make their coaching debut.
“Larry and Aaron are not only legendary Panthers but also two of the elite players in the NFL,” Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said. “The University of Pittsburgh takes great pride in what they have accomplished as both players and people. We’re thrilled to have them as honorary head coaches for the spring game. I think they will have as much fun as our players and fans will.”
Even though Fitzgerald only played two seasons at Pitt (2002-2003), he was the Panthers most-productive receiver in school history. He was named the Walter Camp Player of the Year in 2003, the first time a sophomore earned the honor, and also won the Biletnikoff Award, and was the Heisman Trophy runner-up.
He was the third overall selection by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2004 NFL Draft. He already has 909 catches for 12,151 yards and 89 touchdowns. He is the Cardinals’ franchise leader in each of those statistical categories.
“I always love coming back to Pittsburgh and I’m excited to see firsthand the work Coach Narduzzi is doing with the team,” Fitzgerald said. “There is a great buzz around the program right now. My Blue squad better be ready to go come April 18!”
Donald had one of the best senior seasons in college football history. He had 28.5 tackles-for-loss and 11 sacks on his way to winning the Bronko Nagruski Award, the Chuck Bednarik Award, the Rotary Lombardi Award, and the Outland Trophy.
He was the thirteenth pick overall in last year’s NFL draft by the St. Louis Rams. He led all rookies with 9 sacks, which set a team rookie record. He also had 17 tackles for loss, 32 quarterback pressures and was named to the Pro Bowl.
“Coach Narduzzi is already doing great things at Pitt and I’m excited that he asked me to be an honorary head coach,” Donald said. “This will be a lot of fun because I still know a lot of the players on the team. Larry better have his guys ready because I know our Gold squad will be fired up to play!”
The Blue Gold Game is Saturday, April 18 with kickoff at 1 p.m. at Highmark Stadium with doors opening at 11:30. Admission is free and seats are general admission. For the first time in years, it will be a true game format with two separate squads playing each other. Fitzgerald will lead the Blue and Donald will lead the gold.
for more information: Pittsburgh Panthers website