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.
2. Hugh Green (1977-80)- You would think the No.1 choice would be easy but a serious case could be made for #99. Arguably the best defensive player in college football history, Green was also a four-time All-American and three-time First Team All-American.
How Green came to Pitt is part of Panther legend. While the Pitt staff was in Natchez, MS looking at star running back prospect Rooster Jones, they noticed Green, whose only offer at the time was from Mississippi State. Green eventually chose Pitt because he said he wanted to be on television. The rest is history.
Green didn't start from the very first snap of his freshman season, but he did play on the second snap. After that he never sat again. As a freshman, he ended up with 92 tackles, 12 sacks, 15 tackles for loss, 5 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, 4 passes defensed, 2 blocked kicks, and an interception. It was enough to be named second team All-American.
As a soph he was even better with 109 tackles, 13 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, 6 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, 6 passes defensed, and 2 interceptions. He ended the season being named a consensus first team All-American.
As a junior, the greatness continued with 135 tackles, 11 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, 6 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, 5 passes defensed, and another interception. This time he was named a unanimous first team All-American. He was also a finalist for the Lombardi Award but was beat out by USC offensive tackle Brad Budde.
As a senior, he somehow managed to be even better with 123 tackles, 17 sacks, 11 tackles for loss, 7 forced fumbles, 4 fumble recoveries, and 6 passes defensed. Once again he was named a unanimous first team All-American
Green's career totals included 460 tackles, 52 tackles for loss (in college football this does not include sacks), 53 sacks, 24 forced fumbles, 13 recovered fumbles, 22 passed defensed, and 76 hurries. To put those numbers in perspective, Green's average year at Pitt was 115 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, 6 forced fumbles, 3 recovered fumbles, 5 passes defensed, and 19 hurries. That is a dream season for most All-Americans, let alone a four year average. If that wasn't enough, he even had four interceptions and two blocked kicks in his career. And this is while he was double and triple teamed throughout his entire career.
Despite those incredible numbers, Green still did not win the Heisman, finishing second to South Carolina's George Rogers. It was the highest finish for a defensive only player in Heisman history (Michigan's Charles Woodson partially won because of his return skills).
While Green was robbed of the Heisman, he did win the Maxwell Award, the Walter Camp Award, the Lombardi Award, the Sporting News Player of the Year, and the UPI Player of the Year.
He was named the 5th best college football player ever by College Football News and the 14th best by ESPN. In 1996 he was inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame.
On the field, Green was fast, explosive, and mean. In fact, he once said, "I do find that something like a forearm up alongside the head does seem to settle most folks down." Syracuse head coach Frank Maloney marveling at Green's talent at the time said, "He just shouldn't be playing college football". Pitt's defensive end coach, Ray Zingler, may have put it best when he said, "He does two things. First he'll rip your head off, then he'll cut your heart out."
Green was drafted with the 7th overall pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and played 11 seasons in the league, splitting time between Tampa Bay and Miami. Injuries prevented him from having a great NFL career, but he did make the All-Pro team twice.