Super Bowl LVI will be considered by some a homecoming for LSU. Former Tigers who will be playing in this game include Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase for the Cincinnati Bengals, and Odell Beckahm Jr. and 2003 National Champion Andrew Whitworth for the Los Angeles Rams. LSU is tied with Florida for the school with the most former players in this Super Bowl with five.
Pittsburgh is not near the top of this list, because they only have two players in the game. Those players just happen to be Tyler Boyd, the Bengals dependable No. 2 wide receiver, and the best player in this game, all-everything defender Aaron Donald for the Rams.
They played on the same Pitt team during the 2013 season, and are both from that area, Boyd is from the small suburb of Clairton, Pennsylvania, and Donald from Pittsburgh proper. Anyone familiar with the area would be able to tell that those two are from there as soon as they open their mouths. A Black Pittsburgh accent can be heard strong in both when they discussed first noticing that the other was a special football player.
“Our first game of the season, we played [Florida State] and he had a day,” Donald said. “I think he was making some unbelievable catches. He had got a reverse and broke a long run. So I kinda knew from there he was gonna be a special type of talent.”
Boyd caught two passes for 26 yards and also went Deebo Samuel, carrying the football for Pitt, with three rushes for 54 yards, and he also returned kicks. Not a bad start for a true freshman against a team that would win the national championship and go undefeated, winning all but four of its games by 30 points or more.
While Boyd only got to share a practice field with Donald for a season, it was enough time to watch Donald wreck every human being in his path.
“The way he played, I’m gonna continue to say this, he played like an apex predator,” Boyd said. “He went out there and dogged any guy you lined up in front of him. That’s exactly why he bumped his draft stock up.”
A look at the list of the top five schools that have the most Pro Football Hall of Famers shows expected names like Notre Dame and USC (tied for No. 1) , and Michigan, (No. 2.) However, tied for fifth is Pitt and Miami. Both schools have sent nine players to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Just like Miami, Pitt has made its mark largely with local players. Dan Marino, Tony Dorsett, and Mike Ditka are just a few of the homegrown players that Pitt has sent to Canton.
Expect to see Darrelle Revis there when he reaches the ballot, and five years after Donald hangs up the cleats, he will surely be fitted for a gold jacket.
Pitt is not the school that would come to the average football fan’s mind when thinking about places that consistently develop top football talent. Alabama, LSU, and Georgia are the schools currently pumping the most players into the NFL, and USC and Notre Dame are two of the most storied programs in the history of college football.
Then there’s Pitt. A school in a city much bigger than South Bend, Indiana, and significantly smaller than Los Angeles. In the past 40 years, Pitt has finished a season with more than 10 wins only twice, one being this past 2021 season. Still, that hasn’t stopped the school from putting strong professional talent into the NFL.
Donald and Boyd will be looking to do whatever is necessary Sunday to get their respective teams a Super Bowl title, but they also will be showing the world a school in a place that gets real deal winter, the small slice of America that this university represents puts out some of the best football players anyone will ever see.