Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Counting down the top Pitt football players of the last 40 years- No.48 Alex Van Pelt

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.

48.  Alex Van Pelt (1988-92)-  Having the all-time leading passing yardage leader, by far, be so far down the list may surprise many fans, but it shouldn't.  A protege of Paul Hackett, his best season may have been as a redshirt freshman, the last year Mike Gottfried was head coach, and when Hackett was the offensive coordinator.  The redshirt freshman surprised everybody by throwing for 17 touchdowns and 2,881 yards.  But unfortunately for Van Pelt, and Pitt, he stagnated for the next three years when Hackett took over as the coach.

As a sophomore Van Pelt actually regressed with 2,427 yards while throwing for 14 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.  The Panthers that season ended up with a 3-7-1 record.  As a junior, the Panthers and Van Pelt rallied somewhat as the signal caller threw for 2,796 yards to go with 15 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.  More importantly the Panthers ended the season with a 6-5 record, but a possible bowl game was missed when Van Pelt threw 5 interceptions in a season ending loss to Penn State.

Van Pelt broke Dan Marino's yardage year as a senior on his way to a season that saw him throw for 3,163 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions.  But once again the Panthers were losers, ending the season with 5 straight losses and a 3-9 overall record that cost Hackett his job.

At the end of the day, despite his record setting yardage numbers, most of which came when coming from behind, Van Pelt was mostly a yardage accumulator and not much more.  He threw for only 6 more touchdowns than interception in his career and in his last three years he actually threw 49 touchdowns to 48 interceptions.

Still Van Pelt did last nine seasons in the NFL, mostly with the Buffalo Bills as a backup, and since 2006 he's been an NFL assistant. Currently he is the running backs coach for the Green Bay Packers.

At the end of the day, the real question concerning Van Pelt was how much Hackett helped, and how much he hurt, in developing the quarterback.


  1. Bowling Green PantherJuly 12, 2012 at 8:06 AM

    I couldn't agree more. One of my greatest regrets as a Panthe fan was the firing of Gottfried and replacing him with Hackett. Why there was a host of issues with the program at the time, I think Van Pelt's stagnation was indicative of the problems with Hackett.

  2. Paul Hackett, as a head coach, is just about the same as the NCAA giving the death penalty to a member school. Pitt football fielded a team under him but its never quite been the same since. Paul Hackett couldn't win as the head coach of USC. That's all you need to know. He was meant as a assnt not head coach. Maybe Penn State should be forced to hire him as the head coach for 5 years?