Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Counting down the top Pitt football players of the last 40 years- No.50 Dietrich Jells


I will be counting down my own list of the top 50 Pitt football players since 1972.  I have spent time doing a lot of research and talking to a lot of people when formulating this list, but ultimately it is MY opinion.  The great thing about lists like this is that people will disagree, and feel free to, but just remember that there is no right answer so there's no need to go crazy if you do disagree.  I will post this same intro with all 50 bios because I know the one time I don't, people will complain about not knowing what criteria I used.  I will add at least one a day, maybe two.  

My criteria for selecting the order is as follows:

1.  Productivity.
2.  Talent.
3.  Place in program history.
4.  Only the player's careers while at Pitt are considered, not their NFL careers. 
5.  No current players.


50.  Dietrich Jells (1991-95)- This Erie native played for some truly horrid teams during the Paul Hackett era, as well as the second coaching stint of Johnny Majors, but he still managed to persevere enough to become the first Panther to have 3,000 receiving yards in a career, and believe it or not, the first Panther to have over 1,000 receiving yards in a season.  His 3,003 career receiving yards is still a Big East record and his 25 total touchdowns is third in Big East history (Larry Fitzgerald and Antonio Bryant are first and second, respectively).  

Jells' forte was his blazing speed as he showed in his freshman season with a 28.3 yard average on 12 catches. In fact, he was also a two-time Big East 100m champ and still holds the PIAA AAA 100m record of 10.57 seconds.  

His best year was his sophomore season in 1992 when he had 55 catches for 1,091 yards, and 8 touchdowns.  He again showed his great ability to stretch the field with a 19.8 average, including a still standing school record 91-yard touchdown pass from Alex Van Pelt.  His receiving yards and receptions were both single season school records at the time.

Unfortunately after that Jells regained his sophomore numbers, though it was no fault of his.  In 1993 he had a knee injury in the third game of the season which led him to redshirt.  When he came back for his next two seasons, the combination of Majors coaching and John Ryan being the No.1 quarterback, prevented Jells from matching his previous totals.  

In his junior season, Jells was the second most productive receiver behind Billy Davis and he had 35 catches for 613 yards, 4 touchdowns, and a 17.5 average. But he still managed to have a still standing school record of 225 yards receiving against West Virginia.  Even more amazingly, he did it on just 5 catches.  As a senior he once again became the top threat despite suspect quarterback play and did a great job by grabbing 48 passes for 789 yards, 8 touchdowns, and a 16.4 average.  

Overall, he is still No.4 all-time in Pitt history for receptions, No.2 all-time in receiving yards, and No. 5 all-time in all-purpose yards (No.3 in the modern day era behind only Tony Dorsett and Craig Heyward).  

19 comments:

  1. Chris - looking forward to the series. You should consider making a book out of it. With some good pics, it would make a nice coffee table book for Pitt fans.

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  2. I didn't know he ran track at Pitt also...
    it's all about the speed baby!

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  3. Great idea, Chris. I can't wait to read the rest of the list.

    Jells is on my list... my list of best names to play for Pitt. Jells comes in second to Demetrius Gore - best name ever!

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    Replies
    1. I think you overlook the great Horatio Benedict Blades, Jr.

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  4. It will be curious as to the era who makes the list...
    Difficult to list a top 10... my top 5... heck, it was hard after top 3.
    1. Tony Dorsett
    2. Hugh Green
    3. Dan Marino
    4. Larry Fitzgerald
    5. Matt Cavanaugh

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  5. Very cool effort, Chris. I agree that Pro careers shouldn't factor into these Pitt rankings but I'd still like to see a summary of what the player did in the pro's, if at all.

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  6. Jells and Ryan were in a zone that day versus WVU in 1994.

    What a joke that defense was letting WVU score to win, 47-41. What should have been a memorable, 41-40, come-from-behind Pitt win, became sour, which in a way, is the one word that describes the program since '82.

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  7. For anyone that remembers titleman - Joe D = titleman.

    Enough said.

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  8. Gotta have Fralic in the Top 5, right? Not Matt Cavanaugh. How about Shady? Mark May?

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    1. Matt Cavanaugh was MVP of sugar bowl when they won national championship in 1976... that is why I put him in top 5... based upon Chris's criteria (#3)

      It's very difficult to even pick a top 10...
      can't wait to see Chris's list..

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  9. What about Curtis Martin in top 5? Had excellent production on bad teams while at Pitt.

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    1. I'll tell you right now that Martin barely made the list because he didn't play that much at Pitt due to injuries. He barely ran for 1,000 yards one season but most of the time he was hobbled.

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  10. Tossing ThabeetsJuly 10, 2012 at 1:00 PM

    Jells was a class act too. High School star athlete who was very grounded. Well deserved to make this list.

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  11. Chris, I am a very impatient person, so please tell me if Snuffy Everett made the list ASAP. Thanks.

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    Replies
    1. No kickers!! It's blasphemy to name any kicker a top 50 player in the last 40 years!!

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    2. Does the same go for punters? Andy Lee - two time Big East special team player of the year!

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  12. My guess of top 5 since 1972:
    1) Tony Dorsett (Heisman winner giving edge over Dan)
    2) Dan Marino
    3) Hugh Green
    4) Bill Fralic
    5) Mark May

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    Replies
    1. That coincides with the 5 retired jerseys during that timeframe...

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