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.
1. Tony Dorsett (1973-76)- Well, where do I start? He was a four time All-American, including a three time First Team All-American, he won Pitt's only Heisman Trophy, he led the Panthers to an undefeated National Championship season, and he ended his career as the all-time leading rusher in NCAA history. Other than that he was just okay.
As a freshman, the Hopewell High School phenom became the first freshman first team All-American in 29 years thanks to a then national freshman record of 1,586 yards, a 5.5 avg., and 12 touchdowns. His 265 yard game against Northwestern was also a national freshman record at the time and he ran for 209 yards against Notre Dame. His yardage total was second in the nation.
As a sophomore, Dorsett was not as spectacular thanks to defenses ganging up on him, but he ran for 1,004 yards, a 4.6 avg., and 9 touchdowns. But that's still pretty good for a supposed down year and he was named a second team All-American.
As a junior he was again phenomenal with 1,544 yards, a 6.8 avg., and 11 touchdowns. He also gained a whopping 303 yards against Notre Dame. He ended the season again as a first team All-American and again was the second leading rusher in the nation. He finished 4th in the Heisman voting, losing to Ohio State's Archie Griffin, who won for the second year in a row despite inferior stats of 1,450 yards, a 5.5 avg., and 4 touchdowns.
As a senior, it all came together with the undefeated National Championship season and the Heisman Trophy. Dorsett accumulated an NCAA leading 1,948 regular season rushing yards, a 5.8 avg., and 21 touchdowns. His single season yardage total was then the most ever in NCAA history.
In the final regular season game, against Penn State, Dorsett ran for 224 yards and 2 touchdowns. Afterwards, Penn State defensive end Ron Crosby said, "I think he's the greatest back I've ever seen. I've never seen anyone with acceleration like that". In the National Championship Sugar Bowl game he ran for 202 yards and a touchdown. Needless to say he was again named a first team All-American, this time unanimously. He once again torched Notre Dame, this time for 181 yards, even after it was rumored that the Irish kept the grass high to slow him down. In his four games against Notre Dame, Dorsett has rushed for 754 yards, still an NCAA record against an opponent. After the season, he also won the Walter Camp Award, the Maxwell Trophy, and every other national player of the year award.
Dorsett had four 1,000 yard seasons, including three 1,500 yard seasons. In his four seasons he accumulated 6,082 rushing yards, a 5.7 avg., and 55 TDs. His total yardage was the best in NCAA history, and he held on to that record for an incredible 22 years. He was also the first player to rush for over 1,500 yards three times.
Not only did he win the Heisman and finish 4th in '75, but he is still the only player in NCAA history to finish in the top 13 in the Heisman voting for four years. He is also a College Hall of Famer, an NFL Hall of Famer, and a Super Bowl champion. ESPN ranked him the No.7 college player of all-time.
I could go on and on about his accomplishments, but Dorsett's importance go well beyond his stats. The Pitt program was bad for decades when Dorsett and arrived and in four years he was the main player responsible for the National Championship. He put Pitt on the map in the modern era with his fame and playing ability. He also was highly responsible for the 1977 incoming recruiting class. To a man, every player in that class mentions Dorsett as the reason they came, not only because they were fans, but because he literally recruited them on their visit to the campus. Included in that class, considered the best Pitt class of of all-time, were Hugh Green, Rickey Jackson, Mark May, Carlton Williamson, and Russ Grimm.