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:
3. Place in program history.
4. Only the player's careers while at Pitt are considered, not their NFL careers.
5. No current players.
5. Dan Marino (1979-82)- You know you have a great football history when you have four players better in your program. Marino is usually not considered the greatest quarterback in NFL history, but most would call him the greatest passer of all-time. Thanks to his cannon arm and the best, quickest release of any quarterback in history, Marino will certainly go down as one of the most legendary quarterbacks who ever played the game.
While at Pitt, Marino started for most of his four seasons and was responsible for many great moments, including maybe the most memorable play in Pitt history when he hit John Brown for a game winning touchdown in the Sugar Bowl.
So why is Marino so far down the list then? Well, the truth is, he was a much better pro player than a college player. Yes, as a junior he led the nation with 37 touchdowns while adding 2,876 yards, and he lead the Panthers to an 11-1 record that season. But he also threw 23 interceptions and in the Panthers devastating 48-14 loss to Penn State he was thoroughly outplayed by Todd Blackledge, and threw four interceptions.
In his senior season, Marino failed to live up to expectations, to be blunt. The Panthers started the season No.1 but limped to a 9-3 season, with Marino throwing 23 more inceptions, this time to 17 touchdowns. In Marino's last game, against SMU in the Cotton Bowl, Marino failed to generate a touchdown in a 7-3 loss. Still despite a season that Pitt fans would consider a failure, Marino somehow finished 9th in the Heisman voting, down from a 4th place finish the previous season.
But I don't want to make it sound like I'm trashing Marino. His talent level was at a superior level and, along with Stanford's Jon Elway, he was at the forefront of the new era of high caliber passing games in college football. Plus, his 79 touchdown passes are still a Pitt record and his 8,597 yards is 2nd all-time in school history.
His poor senior season, as well as some rumored trouble, dropped Marino to the 27th overall pick of the Miami Dolphins. It was there that Marino became an NFL legend, breaking countless passing records before eventually becoming a first ballot hall of Fame inductee.